You’ve seen the traffic sign that says “Yield,” haven’t you? It means, basically: “You don’t have the right of way. Give the other traffic priority.”
So when you see a yield sign, you know what to do. When you see the word yield in the Bible, you also know what to do, right? Not necessarily. There is more to yielding than meets the eye.
Yield is not one of the more common words in the English Bible. But in Romans 6, Paul uses it several times to explain our responsibility to God and His law, once we are baptized.
“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God . . . .to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (vs. 13, 16, 19).
The meaning is fairly obvious. Anyone who is used to pausing at a yield sign would get the point. Once you are a baptized member of God’s Church, you can’t just go hurtling through life doing what you have always done. You will collide with God’s law.
You must get into the habit of pausing, to make sure you give God and His way priority. In other words, you no longer have the “right of way.” That’s yielding, in plain English.
But Paul, as you know, did not write in English. He wrote his epistles in the Greek language. What we have is a translation – sometimes good, often not so good. But even at best, translation is not an exact science. It is practically impossible to convey the exact meaning of a word in another language; this is especially true with words that describe behavior.
For example, “How are you?” “Comment-allez-vous?”, “Wie gehts?” and “Como esta’ usted?”- don’t all mean exactly the same thing.
And the Greek word used by Paul in Romans 6 doesn’t exactly mean “yield.” The word is derived from the verb paristemi, and “yield” is part of what it means; but only part.
Paristemi is rich in meaning. If an ancient Greek chariot driver had come to an intersection and seen a sign using paristemi, he would have done more than just give priority to the oncoming traffic. He would have thought of all the other things that it meant. He would have been at that intersection for quite a long time.
We can see what Paul meant by paristemi by looking at the other places where the world is used in the Bible. It is a fascinating study that can help you truly “yield yourself to God.”
Paul uses paristemi again in Romans 16:1-2, when he informs the church that Phebe, a trusted woman – a deaconess, perhaps – would shortly be visiting Rome. Paul wrote in advance to introduce her, and told the members in Rome to “assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you.”
The word assist is, in the Greek, paristemi. The church was told to help Phebe in the areas where she needed help, not just where they wanted to help or in areas where they thought she needed help. There is a difference.
Today, we have been called into God’s Work, in one capacity or another to assist where help is needed. For instance, we ask for your help with prayers, tithes, offerings and loyal support. One way we can “yield” to God is to assist the Church in whatsoever business the church has need of us, just as the church at Rome had to be willing to assist Phebe.
It sounds simple, but many members and ministers have gotten hurt feelings and left the Church because they weren’t willing to do this. They were willing to assist in things that they wanted to do.
Yet Christ’s example was, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). Christ was willing to assist in whatsoever His Father needed. ARE YOU?
Another place where Paul uses the word paristemi is I Cor. 8:8: “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” The word commendeth is, in the Greek paristemi.
To serve God vigorously you need good health, and that means a good, balanced diet. But many people take this to extremes. They begin to equate “righteousness” with organic vegetables, natural cereals, various herbs and brown sugar. But “righteous” (self-righteous?) food doesn’t of itself make you more or less yielded to God.
God looks on the heart, not on the stomach or thyroid gland. We should do the best we can to eat a good, balanced diet. But remember that food of and by itself does not commend, yield or paristemi you to God.
One on the most spectacular healings recorded in the Bible took place in the Temple shortly after the day of Pentecost. The pathetic cripple who lay huddled at the gate was a familiar landmark in Jerusalem. You just couldn’t miss him as you walked in to pray.
So when Peter healed him in the name of Jesus Christ, it caused no small stir. It also upset the bigoted religious authorities, and in due course, Peter and John were hauled before the court to give account of themselves.
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth doth this man stand here before you whole” (Acts 4:8-10). The word stand here is translated from paristemi. The ex-crippled was “yielded” to the authorities as a witness of the power of the risen Christ. He hadn’t asked to be healed – he had asked for money, but he got more than he bargained for.
Likewise today some of God’s people are healed – miraculously-- in defiance of medical science as a witness. But others are not healed. God delays their healing. Some even die in pain – but in faith.
Most church areas have one or two members who are ill or handicapped in some way. But their example of patience, courage and faith serves to inspire and motivate those who are whole. We all look forward to the time when these people will also “stand before us whole.” But, in the meantime, if God has left you with an affliction, be willing to serve as an example of faith under stress. It is part of yielding.
There is another use of the word paristemi involving Peter in the book of Acts, chapter 9. Tabitha, the beloved deaconess of the church at Joppa, had died. The church was distraught. The members had come to rely on her sewing. She seemed indispensable. Tabitha had yielded her talent to God, and God had used her to help many others. And then she died.
Urgently, the church sent for the Peter. Could he, perhaps, do something? And so Peter, once he had peace and quiet, kneeled down, and by the power of God raised the woman from the dead, “And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and presented (paristemi) her alive” (v. 41).
Tabitha, the yielded servant of God and her brethren, was given back to the brethren. Her acts of service were used as a powerful witness. Think of it, would your congregation miss you?
Now let’s look at the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. Gabriel, God’s powerful archangel, appeared to Zacharias, and told him that he was soon to become the father of John the Baptist. “I am Gabriel,” said the archangel, “that stands in the presence of God” (v. 19). When Gabriel said “stands,” he used the word paristemi. How did he mean it?
If you could take someone from Zacharias’ time to your airport and show him the taxis standing in line waiting for fares, he would probably describe what they were doing with the verb paristemi. He would see that the drivers are lined up, willing (well, in theory, anyway) to go anywhere they are asked.
Gabriel is like that, as are all the loyal angels. Down through the millennia, God’s loyal angels stand before Him to carry out His directives. They serve well, and usually anonymously, doing what must be done to bring about the fulfillment of God’s plan. Unlike Satan, they are yielded as they stand in the presence of God.
And because God trusts them, He can use them. Gabriel was used to carry some of the most important messages that have ever come from heaven.
Just six months after his mission to Zacharias, God send Gabriel to tell Mary that she was to become the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:26). Mary herself is a remarkable example of yielding. What God was asking was going to change her life. It seemed at first God’s request would bring a quick end to her engagement. Joseph, suspecting her of fornication, was minded to refuse to marry her, until an angel reassured him. Nothing in Mary’s life would ever be quite normal again.
But her reply to the angel showed that she was totally yielded to God: “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). And later, when Christ was born, Mary and Joseph took their little Son and presented (paristemi) Him to God (Luke 2:22).
But, of course, isn’t it only reasonable for a person who has given himself to Christ, to make himself available for whatever God wants?
In Romans 12:1 Paul writes: “I beseech you that ye present (paristemi) your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Paristemi makes sense to a converted person. But it is not the way of the world.
This world’s way is the way of competition and vanity, of lying about one’s abilities in an effort to get ahead of others in the race for “success.” Make yourself look good, make the other fellow look bad. Get what you want, be it power, position or wealth, at any cost. Witness the latest presidential election!
But a yielded Christian does not think of himself “more highly than he ought to think” (v. 3). He will think soberly about the talents and abilities God has given him. No inflated boasting, nor false humility. If you can do the job, make yourself available. But if God wants to use someone else, that’s fine. That’s yieldedness.
A skilled workman knows the rules, and knows how to use the tools of his trade. If, for instance, you want to be a builder, you should learn the building code and be able to handle the equipment. A budding translator cannot expect to be used, however willing he might be, if he can’t be bothered to learn a foreign language.
And so it is with wanting to be used by God. “Study,” said Paul, “to shew (paristemi) thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed” (II Tim. 2:15). If we really want to be useful to God, now and in the future, we have to know the rules. Never have God’s people had so much training material available. We have Sabbath services, Traditional Christian Doctrines, Mini-Correspondence Courses, Sermons and hundreds of articles to help our spiritual growth. But none of these are of any use unless we take advantage of them.
So part of yielding to God is to continue to learn, to become more skilled as a spiritual workman. Christ told us there would always be a shortage of really qualified laborers (Matt. 9:37-38). This world needs what we have to give, even if it doesn’t realize it yet. There are many big jobs, and little jobs still to be done.
The deacon Stephen had no idea what God would need him to do (Acts 6:8; 7:60). But he proved himself to be a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”
So part of yielding is to study and prepare yourself, so that you are available for God to use however and whenever He wills. PARISTEMI MEANS JUST THAT.
In Acts 23:24, a Roman officer provided a beast of burden to transport Paul to the governor Felix. The word provide is another translation from paristemi. The beasts had no say in how they were used, they were provided. That should be the attitude of a bondslave of Jesus Christ, a willing attitude of wanting to do what is needed.
Sometimes, though, it seems there isn’t much to do. But a yielded person will always have the attitude of standing by, or being ready, just in case.
The close relatives and friends of Jesus must have felt pretty useless and helpless while He was being put to death. But they didn’t desert Him. They stood by (John 19:25-27): “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple (John) standing by (paristemi) he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!”
So John, by standing by to the end, was able to perform a final act of service. Christ could now leave the physical care of His beloved mother to a man He knew He could trust. That is what paristemi is all about – trust, humility, serving, growing, and helping. There is so much more to yielding than just waiting (rather impatiently, perhaps) at an intersection while someone else goes his way. It is a relationship with God that begins when you yield at baptism.
When you give yourself to Christ, He puts you to work, in one capacity or another. You are now assisting in the Work, standing by to do what is needed. And all the time you are studying and growing, not only for a short-term reward, but for eternity.
In Eph. 5:27, we read that Christ’s goal is to “present” (paristemi) His Church perfect, without spot or wrinkle or any spiritual blemish. He will know then that He has a term of loyal, trustworthy, humble, service-oriented people who have shown they can indeed work together in harmony.
Armed with that attitude, we can assist Him in “whatsoever He hath need of us” – forever.