The Son’s submission
The Lord creating submission
The Word of God tells us that the Lord Jesus and the Father are one. In the beginning was the Word, just as in the beginning there was God. The Word was God, and this Word created the heavens and earth. With God in the beginning there was glory. It was an inapproachable glory, the glory of the Son. The Father and the Son are equal, equipotent, coexisting, and existing simultaneously. But there is a difference in person between the Father and the Son. It is not a distinction in intrinsic nature but in arrangement in the Godhead. The Bible says that the Lord did not consider being equal with God a treasure to be grasped (Phil 2:6). To be grasped means to take by force. The Lord’s equality with God is not something that He assumed by force. It is not an assertion or a usurpation because the Lord had the image of God in the first place.
Philippians 2:5-7 form one section, while verses 8-11 form another section. The first section is on Christ emptying Himself. The second section is on Christ humbling Himself. The Lord lowered Himself twice, first in emptying Himself in His deity, and then in humbling Himself in His humanity. When the Lord came down to earth, He emptied Himself of the glory, power, position, and image in His deity. As a result of His emptying, those without revelation did not recognize Him and would not acknowledge Him as God, considering Him merely as an ordinary man. In the Godhead the Lord voluntarily chose to be the Son, submitting Himself to the authority of the Father. Hence, He said that the Father was greater than He (John 14:28). The Son’s position was a voluntary choice of our Lord. In the Godhead there is full harmony. In the Godhead there is equality, yet it is happily arranged that the Father should be the Head and that the Son should submit. The Father became the representation of authority, and the Son became the representation of submission.
We are human. Submission for us is simple. We can submit as long as we humble ourselves. But the Lord’s submission is not a simple matter. The Lord’s submission is more difficult than His creation of the heavens and the earth. In order to submit He had to empty Himself of all the glory, power, position, and image in His deity. He also had to take on the form of a slave. Only then could He receive the qualification of submission. Hence, submission is something created by the Son of God.
Formerly, the Father and the Son shared the same glory. When the Lord came down to earth, He dropped authority on the one hand and picked up submission on the other hand. He set His heart to become a slave, to be restricted in time and space as a man. But this is not all. The Lord humbled Himself, becoming obedient. The obedience in the Godhead is the most wonderful thing in the whole universe. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, a painful and shameful death. In the end, God exalted Him to the highest. He that humbles himself will be exalted. This is God’s principle.
Those filled with Christ will be filled with submission
Originally, there was no need for submission in the Godhead. Because the Lord created submission, the Father became the Head to Christ in the Godhead. Both authority and submission were established by God. They were present from the beginning. Therefore, those who know the Lord will be submissive spontaneously. Those who do not know God nor Christ will not know authority or submission. With Christ there is the principle of submission. Those who accept submission are accepting the principle of Christ. Hence, those who are filled with Christ will be filled with submission.
Today many ask, “Why do I have to submit?” They also ask, “Why do I have to submit to you? I am a brother, and you are a brother.” Actually, men do not have a right to say such things. Only the Lord is qualified to speak this way, but He never said such things. There was not even such a thought in Him. Christ represents submission, a perfect submission, just as God’s authority is perfect authority. Today some think they know authority, but they do not know submission. We can only ask for God’s mercy with such people.
The way the Lord came out of His divine form and the way He returned
Concerning His deity, the Lord was equal with God. But His being the Lord was something given to Him by God. Being made the Lord is something that happened after He emptied Himself in His deity. The deity of the Lord Jesus is something that is based on what He is. Being God is His original position. But His attainment of the position of Lord is based on what He has done. When He laid aside His divine form to fully maintain the principle of submission and subsequently ascended to the heavens, God accorded to Him the position of Lord. Based on Himself, He is God. Based on His attainment, He is Lord. This lordship was not originally present in the Godhead.
This portion in Philippians 2 is very difficult to explain and very controversial. But it is also a most divine passage. Today we have to come to this passage with our shoes off, standing on holy ground. It seems as if there was a conference in the Godhead in the beginning in which a plan was made to create the universe. In this plan the divine persons of the Godhead agreed with each other and came to the understanding that the Father would be the representation of authority. But if there was only authority without submission, authority could not be established, because authority is not something isolated. Hence, there must be submission in the universe. Two kinds of creatures were created in the universe. The first kind was the angels — spirits. The second kind was man — souls. God’s foreknowledge foresaw the rebellion of the angels and the failure of man. God’s authority cannot be built upon the angels or upon the descendants of Adam. In the Godhead there was a harmonious decision that authority would be established first within the Godhead. From that time on, there was a distinction in operation of the Father and the Son. One day the Son willingly emptied Himself to become a created man as the representation of submission to authority. It was the creature that had rebelled. Therefore, only the submission of a creature could establish God’s authority. It was man who sinned and rebelled. Therefore, only through the submission of a man could God’s authority be established. This is why the Lord had to come to the earth to become a man and to be the same as a creature in every way.
The birth of the Lord is the coming forth of God. He did not retain His authority by being God. Rather, He took up human restrictions by becoming a man, even the restriction of a slave. This was a very risky matter for the Lord. Once the Lord stepped out from the form of God, there was a possibility that He could not return as a man. If He had not been submissive, He could have reclaimed the divine form of His deity only in His position as the Son. However, the principle of submission would have been broken forever. When the Lord stepped out, there were only two ways for Him to return. One was to be a proper man, absolutely and unreservedly submitting with no trace of rebellion, being obedient step by step, and letting God bring Him back and set Him up as Lord. If being a slave had been too difficult for Him, if weakness and the limitations of the flesh had been too much for Him, and if submission had been beyond Him, the only other way to return would have been for Him to force His way back by using the authority and glory of His deity. But our Lord rejected this way, a way which He was not meant to take. He set His heart to subject Himself to the way of submission even unto death. Since He emptied Himself, He could no longer refill Himself. He did not vacillate in His mind. Since He emptied Himself of all divine glory and authority and stepped forth as a slave, He did not want to go back by any other way than the way of submission. Before He returned, He completed His course of being obedient unto death in the position of a man. He was able to return because He accomplished a perfect and pure submission. Suffering upon suffering was piled on Him, but He remained absolutely submissive. There was not the slightest reaction or rebellion. Therefore, God exalted Him and ushered Him back as Lord in the Godhead. This was not just a refilling of what had been emptied, but the ushering of a MAN into the Godhead by the Father. The Son became Jesus (the Man), and was received back into the Godhead. Now we know the preciousness of the name of Jesus. In the whole universe there is no one like Him. When the Lord declared, “It is done” on the cross, He did not mean that just salvation had been secured, but that everything that He said had been done. For this He obtained a name that is above every name. At the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. From that time forward, He was not only God, but Lord as well. His lordship speaks of His relationship with God. It speaks of what He attained before God. His being the Christ speaks of His relationship with the church.
In short, when the Lord came forth from God, He did not intend to return by His deity. Rather, He intended to return through His exaltation as a man. This is how God maintains His principle of submission. It is wrong for us to have even a trace of rebellion. We should submit to authority completely. This is a great matter. The Lord Jesus’ return to heaven was through His being a man and being submissive in the form of a man. As a result He was exalted by God. We must come face-to-face with this matter. In the whole Bible there is hardly any passage as mysterious as this one. The Lord bade farewell to His divine form. He did not return in just His divine form, because He had put on the flesh. In Him there was no trace of disobedience; consequently, He was exalted by God in His humanity. He stepped forth to give up His glory. He returned to reclaim His glory. All of this was accomplished by God. We need to have the mind in us which was in Christ Jesus. All of us should take the way of our Lord, taking His principle of submission as our principle unto submission and learning submission from one another. Whoever knows this principle will realize that no sin is uglier than rebellion and that nothing is more important than submission. Only when we see the principle of submission can we serve God. God’s principle can be maintained only by submitting in the way that the Lord submitted. Once there is rebellion, we are in the principle of Satan.
Learning obedience through suffering
Hebrews 5:8 tells us that the Lord’s obedience was learned through suffering. Suffering brought obedience to Him. True submission is found when there is still obedience in spite of suffering. A man’s usefulness is not in whether he has suffered, but in whether he has learned obedience in suffering. Only those who are obedient to God are useful. If the heart is not softened, the suffering will not go away. Our way is the way of manifold sufferings. A man who yearns after ease and enjoyment is of no use. We must all learn to be obedient in sufferings. When the Lord came to the earth, He did not bring obedience with Him; rather, He learned it through sufferings.
Salvation not only brings joy; it also brings submission. If a man is only for joy, his experiences will not be abundant. Only submissive ones will experience the fullness of salvation. Otherwise, we change the nature of salvation. We need to be submissive, even as the Lord was submissive. The Lord became the source of our salvation through obedience. God saved us with the hope that we would submit to His will. When one meets God’s authority, submission is a simple matter and knowing God’s will is also a simple matter, because the Lord, who was submissive throughout His life, has already given us His life of submission.