The struggle between the natural human impulses of selfseeking, self-defence and the like, on the one hand, and the more altruistic impulse toward self-denial, self-surrender, on the other, is as old as the race. All religions imply some conception of surrender of self to deity, ranging in ethical quality from a heathen fanaticism which impels to complete physical exhaustion or rapture, superinduced by more or less mechanical means, to the high spiritual quality of self-sacrifice to the divinest aims and achievements. The Scriptures represent self-surrender as among the noblest of human virtues.
I. In the Old Testament.
1. Illustrious Examples:
In the Old Testament self-surrender is taught in the early account of the first pair. Each was to be given to the other (Genesis 2:24; 3:16) and both were to be surrendered to God in perfect obedience (Genesis 3:1-15). The faithful ones, throughout the Bible narratives, were characterized by self-surrender. Abraham abandons friends and native country to go to a land unknown to him, because God called him to do so (Genesis 12:1). He would give up all his cherished hopes in his only son Isaac, at the voice of God (Genesis 22:1-18). Moses, at the call of Yahweh, surrenders self, and undertakes the deliverance of his fellow-Hebrews (Exodus 3:1-4:13; compare Hebrews 11:25). He would be blotted out of God's book, if only the people might be spared destruction (Exodus 32:32).
2. The Levitical System:
The whole Levitical system of sacrifice may be said to imply the doctrine of self-surrender. The nation itself was a people set apart to Yahweh, a holy people, a surrendered nation (Exodus 19:5,6; 22:31; Leviticus 20:7; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2). The whole burnt offering implied the complete surrender of the worshipper to God (Leviticus 1). The ceremony for the consecration of priests emphasized the same fundamental doctrine (Leviticus 8); so also the law as to the surrender of the firstborn child (Exodus 13:13; 22:29).
3. The Prophets:
In the divine call to the prophets and in their life-work self-surrender is prominent. The seer, as such, must be receptive to the divine impress, and as mouthpiece of God, he must speak not his own words, but God's:
"Thus saith the Lord." He was to be a "man of God," a "man of the spirit." `The hand of the Lord was upon me' (Ezekiel 1:3; 3:14) implies complete divine mastery. Isaiah must submit to the divine purification of his lips, and hearken to the inquiry, "who will go for us?" with the surrendered response, "Here am I; send me" (Isaiah 6:8). Jeremiah must yield his protestations of weakness and inability to the divine wisdom and the promise of endowment from above (Jeremiah 1:1-10). Ezekiel surrenders to the dangerous and difficult task of becoming messenger to a rebellious house (Ezekiel 2:1-3:3). Jonah, after flight from duty, at last surrenders to the divine will and goes to the Ninevites (Jonah 3:3).
4. Post-exilic Examples:
On the return of the faithful remnant from captivity, self-giving for the sake of Israel's faith was dominant, the people enduring great hardships for the future of the nation and the accomplishment of Yahweh's purposes. This is the spirit of the great Messianic passage, Isaiah 53:7:
"He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Nehemiah surrendered position in Shushan to help reestablish the returned exiles in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:5). Esther was ready to surrender her life in pleading for the safety of her people (Esther 4:16).
II. In the New Testament.
1. Christ's Teaching and Example:
In the New Testament self-surrender is still more clearly set forth. Christ's teachings and example as presented in the Gospels, give to it special emphasis. It is a prime requisite for becoming His disciple (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23,24,59; 14:27,33; compare Matthew 19:27; Mark 8:34). When certain of the disciples were called they left all and followed (Matthew 4:20; 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). His followers must so completely surrender self, as that father, mother, kindred, and one's own life must be, as it were, hated for His sake (Luke 14:26). The rich young ruler must renounce self as an end and give his own life to the service of men (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; compare Luke 12:33). But this surrender of self was never a loss of personality; it was the finding of the true selfhood (Mark 8:35; Matthew 10:39). our Lord not only taught self-surrender, but practiced it. As a child, He subjected Himself to His parents (Luke 2:51). Self-surrender marked His baptism and temptation (Matthew 3:15; 4:1). It is shown in His life of physical privation (Matthew 8:20). He had come not to do His own will, but the Fathers (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). He refuses to use force for His own deliverance (Matthew 26:53; John 18:11). In His person God's will, not His own, must be done (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:42); and to the Father He at last surrendered His spirit (Luke 23:46). So that while He was no ascetic, and did not demand asceticism of His followers, He "emptied himself .... becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:7).
2. Ac of Apostles:
The early disciples practiced the virtue of self-surrender. Counting none of their possessions their own, they gave to the good of all (Acts 2:44,45; 4:34,35,37). Stephen and others threw themselves into their witnessing with the perfect abandon of the martyr; and Stephen's successor, Paul, counted not his life dear unto himself that he might finish the divinely-appointed course (Acts 20:22-24).
3. Epistles of Paul:
The Epistles are permeated with the doctrine of self-surrender. The Pauline Epistles are particularly full of it. The Christian life is conceived of as a dying to self and to the world--a dying with Christ, a crucifixion of the old man, that a new man may live (Galatians 2:20; 6:14; Colossians 2:20; 3:3; Romans 6:6), so that no longer the man lives but Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21). The Christian is no longer his own but Christ's (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). He is to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1); to die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). As a corollary to surrender to God, the Christian must surrender himself to the welfare of his neighbor, just as Christ pleased not Himself (Romans 15:3); also to leaders (1 Corinthians 16:16), and to earthly rulers (Romans 13:1).
4. Epistles of Peter:
In the Epistles of Peter self-surrender is taught more than once. Those who were once like sheep astray now submit to the guidance of the Shepherd of souls (1 Peter 2:25). The Christian is to humble himself under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6); the younger to be subject to the elder (1 Peter 5:5); and all to civil ordinances for the Lord's sake (1 Peter 2:13).
Edward Bagby Pollard
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