Is Submission to the Holy Spirit Biblical?
By Ruth Davis, 2008
Nowhere in the Bible is there any call or command for Christians to submit, surrender, or open up “to the Holy Spirit.” Words directing submission to the Holy Spirit simply cannot be found in God’s Word. Despite this, Charismatics, Christian mystics, and people in the emerging Church use these terms in connection with practices such as contemplative prayer, being slain in the spirit, and soaking in the Spirit. “Submit to the Holy Spirit,” they say. “Just open up.” “Just trust.” They encourage us to “let the Spirit have His way” with us, to “surrender and receive,” to “soak in the river,” etc. But is submission to the Holy Spirit biblical?
Charismatics expect that a spirit, which they believe to be the Holy Spirit, will manifest in response to their prayers, meditations, and invocations. And it is true that a spirit or sense of spiritual sweetness, love, and peace often manifests, sometimes powerfully. Charismatics believe they are communing with God through the manifest spirit.
But, what spirit is this? What experience is this? Is submission to the Holy Spirit biblical? The answer is no. It sounds good, but in fact it is an occult concept and a counterfeit of genuine, biblical submission. The often-ecstatic feelings that accompany surrender to manifest spirit are also experienced by occult practitioners in pagan religions, who follow similar mystic practices. I show this clearly by many examples in my book, True to His Ways: Purity & Safety in Christian Spiritual Practice.
What does the Bible say about submission and surrender?
As a new Christian, I was involved with Charismatics. I had doubts about their practices and turned to the Bible for help. Prayerfully, and using the old-fashioned method, the King James Version with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, I discovered that Scripture never — not once, not ever — speaks about opening up or surrendering to the Holy Spirit. Although the Bible speaks of opening blind eyes to see, deaf ears to hear, barren wombs, etc., there is not one single exhortation to “open” yourself to God or to the Holy Spirit, or to surrender and receive from the Spirit.
Neither is the word “submission” ever used in the Bible in the sense of submission to spiritual presence or power. In fact, the word “submission” occurs only in certain limited senses, as set out below:
(1) Abasing or afflicting the self. For example, the Lord urged Hagar to submit to ill treatment at the hands of Sarai (Genesis 16:9).
(2) Humbling the self to honor another: The psalmist asked God to command kings to submit to Him by bringing gifts in tribute (Psalm 68:30).
(3) Forced or unwilling submission:
• to persons in authority (2 Samuel 22:45, also Psalm 18:44)
• through the greatness of God’s power enemies of the Jews would submit. (Psalm 66:3)
• God would cause Israel’s enemies to submit if Israel walked in His ways (Psalm 81:15).
(4) Free or willing obedience or submission to the authority of another as in the following Scriptures:
• all the princes and mighty men willingly submitted to Solomon as king (1 Chronicles 29:24)
• believers to godly elders(1 Corinthians 16:16, I Peter 5:5, Hebrews 13:17)
• wives to husbands (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18)
• believers to God (James 4:7)
• believers to human institutions and authorities (1 Peter 2:13)
• believers to fellow believers (Ephesians 5:21)
(5) Submission to the righteousness of God. This is, simply, obedience to God and his laws. Paul said in Romans 10:3 that there are many who have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. These people fail to submit to the righteousness of God.
We see from the above, which are the complete results of my search, that there are no exhortations to submit to a spirit, a spiritual force, spiritual energy, or manifest spirit. NEVER. In fact, the entire idea of submitting passively to manifest spirit is occult, as is more fully explained in my book, sold through our bookstore True to His Ways: Purity & Safety in Christian Spiritual Practice.
Submission to the Holy Spirit is Satan’s occult counterfeit of godly submission. In fact, it involves communion with devils, and is therefore incredibly defiling and dangerous. This is only one reason why the occult is forbidden in the Bible. Genuine, godly submission is obedience to the word of God, his moral commands, and the persons whom God has set in authority over us.
True biblical submission is active, not passive
Occult submission is essentially passive and mindless. It involves stilling the mind and opening oneself up to receive from the hidden, that is, from the occult, spirit world. (‘Occult’ means hidden from sight or from natural perception, and in this context refers to the hidden, spiritual realm, which is inhabited by angels and creatures that we cannot normally see and should not attempt to see.)
Biblical submission is never passive or mindless. It is active and mindful. It calls for using and exercising our minds to learn God’s will. It means exercising our wills to obey. It is a reasoning, deliberate response born out of a love for God’s law that has been written upon our hearts. It is all about obedience to that law and submission to the will of God, especially as given in the Ten Commandments, so that we may be God’s holy, peculiar people. This is not legalism. This is how we prove that we love God, for Jesus Himself said that whoever does — that is, actively performs — the will of God, is part of His family (Mark 3:35). The writer to the Hebrews said, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Scripture is clear that obedience is precious to God. For Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Godly submission is godly obedience. It is that simple.
(For more information and a fuller definition of the occult, so believers can avoid it in all their ways, purchase True to His Ways.)
* * * * * * *
© Ruth Davis, Baruch House Publishing. First posted 2008 on the website True to His Ways, which has been taken down.
KP Is submission to the Holy Spirit biblical?