Monday, November 28, 2011

Surrender or Submission? Defeat or Victory?

Surrender is not a term used in the New Testament. It is used in church circles usually referring to the biblical concept of submission or yielding. Using the word surrender, I believe, has a subtle impact on how we view God. The term surrender makes it out as though we are at war with God and we give up when He beats us down enough. But God is loving and in no way punishes His children (see 1 John 4:18). Scripture never uses the language of surrender of us in relation to God.

In some contexts the Greek word for "submit" is translated as "be subject" and may have the idea of being subordinate to God in a military fashion. Even there the idea of surrender does not fit because we are on God's side. He is for us, He is never against us. We are not at war with Him and we are not to surrender to Him as if we were.

Prominent Definitions of the English Word "Surrender"
acceptance of despair; the act of admitting defeat; to relinquish to the control or possession under threat, compulsion, or demand; to give (oneself) up, as or as if to an enemy

"Submit to God" -James 4:7
The Greek word translated "submit" in James 4:7 refers to "a voluntary attitude of cooperation." Cooperation is "working or acting together; agreeing." Biblical submission is a loving trust. It does not have the attitude of "because I have to.." or "since you're forcing me too.." Biblical submission says "I trust your desires are good and loving. I love you so I agree to work with you to fulfill your desires." This is how we are to obey God. Obedience is not merely an outward action in accordance with an instruction. Obedience is an inward trust based on God's love and guidance that results in outward action. There is nothing in the Christian life that does not involve God's love for you and your trust of Him.

The Christian does not need to "surrender daily" but to cooperate with what the Spirit of God communicates over the course of each day. Submission is a situational decision not a blanket declaration. You cannot submit your day to God. You can only submit as life rolls on throughout the day, anything else is pretending. Submission is relational cooperation done in the present tense. Submission is not tapping out because God twists your arm, it is tapping in, into the life, love, and relationship that God has given you with Himself. You cannot give your life to God. As a Christian God gave His life to you. He is your life (see Colossians 3:3-4). We are to simply walk with Jesus in newness of the new life He has given us. There is no promise to make or achievement to grasp just trust God and His love for you as you live in Him and with Him.


  1. Surrender is to give your right to yourself. If you acknowledge that Jesus is your Lord, then there is no problem of surrendering your life to Him. Your article is very subtle which presents "self-centered" focus instead of "God-centered" one. Surrendering in the Christian view is voluntary by the way and not forced.

  2. I showed that submission is voluntary.
    Please quote what was so "self-centered" about this.
    This isn't self-centered but relationship centered. The relationship between God and us.

  3. Agreed with anonymous. This is quite self-centered, and not biblical, or God-centered. In the New Testament, Paul tells us we must die daily, in 1 Corinthians 15:31 which is parallel to surrendering daily. Giving up our will, lives, to take on that of God's will and purpose for us. It must be a "blanket declaration, otherwise, we will find ourselves being lukewarm believers. We must allow Jesus in so that we walk with Him in us, and with us. Jesus' holy spirit transforms us when we yield, ans surrender everything to Him. It gives us the power to live a holy and set apart life. Its not by our ability to make wrong or right decisions, but by our ability to yield to God's guidance by the Holy Spirit to choose the right decisions. And He will not force us to choose, however, there are consequences when we don't choose Him. Which is why surrendering, and submission is important. The bible tells us to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto our own understanding, but to acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our paths. (Prov. 3:5-6) However, we can't trust with our all our hearts, if we're not surrendering our will, and control for Him to lead. God is a loving God, all-knowing, and all powerful. He leads in love and kindness, grace and mercy, so surrendering to Him knowing these things gives us great joy and peace. It is voluntary. It is an act of love and reverence. It is also admitting your failures and wrong doings, and you being defeated by allowing your flesh to lead you instead of trusting and putting your faith in God. It is this knowing that leads you to repentance. You presenting your body, your will, as a living sacrifice, so that God can use you for his glory because we were created to worship and be vessels for God to reach other people. Submission to Him is so important, and without it, our faith can't be established nor can it grow.

  4. I don't see what is selfish about saying to God, "I trust your desires are good and loving. I love you so I agree to work with you to fulfill your desires." <That is a direct quote from my post. Is trusting God, loving God, and doing what He wants selfish, unbiblical, and not God-centered? I think you are latching onto the word "surrender" because you've been taught to and you think my post is selfish by semantics and not by content.

    I talked kindly of submission being what the bible talks about, not "surrender." Submission as I pointed has to do with cooperation. Part of the choice to cooperate may involve me deciding to not live by my own will.

    My point was that a blanket declaration is meaningless if you don't live out that declaration moment to moment. A declaration doesn't override moment to moment decisions. Yielding to God's guidance is a "right decision." Our "will" is our decision maker.

    Paul did not command or tell anyone to "die daily."
    The following is Excerpted from here:
    Scripture Never Commands that We "Die to Self" or "Die Daily"
    Paul said "I die daily" in 1 Corinthians 15:31 referring to the closeness he comes to dying every day by putting his life in danger for the Gospel. He says "We are in danger every hour" and "I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus." There is nothing in this context to make us think that Paul is boasting about his efforts of self-denial. His point in the context is "Why would I put my life in danger, and I assure you I do every day, if there were no resurrection?" Romans 8:35-37, "we are being put to death all day long," also concerns facing physical dangers.

    1. This an an amazing treatment of the subject of submission through the lenses of the new covenant - one of the best summaries I have found in years of hearing / reading on the subject!! I was actually looking for "die daily" keyword in Google and found your other article on 1 Corinthians 15:31 (that scripture is so often misquoted and taken out of context). Great stuff! I think I'll stick around on your blog for a while longer :-)

  5. Surrenders is not mentioned one time I KJV, but submit is. I believe God.

  6. Thanks for your post on submission and surrender. I had spoken on this in church and felt surrender was wrong and a little dangerous in terms of will and cults.
    Submit, trust,obey or cooperate, consecrate, sacrifice, dedicate are all biblical but with slightly different meanings. The closest we probably get is." not your will but mine."