Surrender and submission are two different things. Surrender is God’s call to the sinner; submission, His call to the saint. When it pertains to a criminal on the run from the law, surrender presupposes that one has been been a fugitive from justice and resisting arrest. When it pertains to warfare, it presupposes an enemy combatant has been engaging in a struggle. When surrender takes place one “comes out with their hands up.” They declare to the one pursuing that the fight is over and they will no longer resist.
When they surrender, God does not bring His enemies to justice, He brings them to mercy. He no longer counts them His enemies, they have become His friends. But not before an execution takes place. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6) God executed at Calvary that which would have kept up the fight against Him. Without this death, we could not be trusted, because despite our promises of fidelity, the old man was “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” (Eph. 4:22) The person who survived the cross is the new man, made in the image of God’s obedient Son.
To submit means to voluntarily place oneself under the authority of another. This is not something which sinners are willing to do.
Submission is not the language those still fighting will ever hear. They have not yet “raised the white flag.” They are still “firing back” at Him whose control they don’t want to come under. To submit means to voluntarily place oneself under the authority of another. This is not something which sinners are willing to do. By nature they are still criminals who want their “freedom,” enemy combatants who are still fighting against the reign of God. Their very disposition is contrary to the law of God. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7,8) Man, by his own efforts, his own best resolve, cannot deliver himself from such a stubborn enemy. Therefore, in frustration he cries out: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) The joyful, relieved answer of the saint of God is: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:25) God so dealt with the disposition and nature of sin on the cross that Paul can say to God’s saints: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9)
Surrender is equivalent to repentance. It is God’s call to those who are still fighting His rule. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32) Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21) When these two things happen, one is born again and given a new Spirit. At that time they put off the old man and put on the new man. They are still tempted, but this temptation is not an indication that they are in the flesh, or still a sinner. It does not mean that they have to surrender every day or repent every day. Only if temptation turns to sin, is repentance necessary. If I turn back to those things Christ has set me free from, I make myself a transgressor. (Gal. 2:18) But the bottom line is that this does not have to happen. It is not the nature of my new life in Christ. I don’t have to struggle every day to live a surrendered life. I am called to submit, present or yield myself to God every day. (Rom. 12:1) I’m not submitting a “body of death” to God, or unruly members that have the law of sin at work in them. I’m submitting myself unto God as one who is dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. (Rom. 6:13) The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2) I am now free to worship God with a body that has been set apart or sanctified for that very purpose.
Surrender is equivalent to repentance. It is God’s call to those who are still fighting His rule.
Theology that teaches that the normal Christian life should be one of repentance and surrender every day misses what scripture says about the new creature in Christ. It sets the believer off on a quest to subdue and conquer an enemy within that is still “on the lam” and fighting with God. It takes the focus off of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, and gave to us as a free gift. It puts the focus on us and our efforts to be holy. We cannot add to the finished work of the cross. When Jesus died, we died with Him. Our old man was crucified with Him, and the body of death was destroyed, so that we would no longer serve sin. (Rom. 6:6) The enemy has been executed. The old, rebellious man who didn’t want to serve God, and the old, religious man who wanted to, but couldn’t, were equally put to death.
For those in Christ, the battle against the flesh is over. You don’t need to fight a fight that you were never able to win and Jesus already fought and won for you. Reckon yourself dead to sin and alive unto God. (Rom. 6:11) Thank Jesus that He delivered you not only from the guilt of what you did, but also from the person you were. Nailed to the cross was not only the particular sinner you became – a liar, thief, drunkard, fornicator – but the sinner you were born as. Adam’s legacy in your life was nailed to the cross. You are no longer a sinner, you are a saint. You are no longer in rebellion toward God; you are His redeemed servant and beloved child. You are not a criminal and a fugitive in His sight because the blood of His cross has reconciled and brought you near to Him. You are His holy and righteous one. You are now His worshipper and, through His mercies, you can submit your body unto God. This is your “reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1)
For those in Christ, the battle against the flesh is over. You don’t need to fight a fight that you were never able to win and Jesus already fought and won for you.
Obedience to God is only hard – no, it’s impossible – to those who are not surrendered. If you’re struggling, you’re still fighting and need to surrender, once and for all. Don’t surrender one thing or another, stop holding out, stop resisting God, period. Come to true repentance and believe the gospel of salvation. But if you have surrendered, don’t call grievous what God made light and easy for you. (1 John 5:3; Matt. 11:30) Don’t call yourself a sinner, when God calls you a saint. Take hold of the exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel. (2 Pet. 1:4) Know that once you are in Christ, you are no longer in the flesh, but the Spirit, and you can please God. (Rom. 8:8,9) You are no longer a sinner, you are a saint. You don’t need to get more willing to live for Him. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning…” (Psalm 110:3) From the very start of your Christian life, from the “womb of the morning,” God Himself has made you willing to walk in the beauties of holiness. That is your new nature in Christ.
Don’t call yourself a sinner, when God calls you a saint.
Rejoice, dear saints: Christ has won the war for you. You have switched sides. You are no longer God’s enemy; you are His friend. (Rom. 5:10) The fight is officially over and submission can now replace surrender. The foundation of repentance from dead works need not be laid again every day. (Heb. 6:1) Instead of trying to live the Christian life, you can start living it.