by Mike Ratliff
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 NASB)
The proper worship of our Lord is done by Spirit-filled Christians and no others. Perhaps the number one attribute that is evidence of being truly Spirit-filled is the submission of our will to the will of God, proper submission, as He has defined it. Our God is all about order, not chaos. There are many who insist that God is all about setting His people free from bondage and we have no business throwing a bunch of “law” at them. We have to be careful here. Yes God has set His people free, but from what? Isn’t it from the bondage of sin? Wouldn’t the attitude stated above lead those who hold it into being “antinomians?” Even more confusing, many who do hold that attitude would agree with us that we are saved by Grace through faith alone apart from works, but where we depart ways is when it comes to all that obedience stuff. I suppose these same people would have a huge problem with the subject of this post for they would see it as an attempt to put people into “religious bondage.” Well, let the Word of God speak…
For starters read the passage I placed at the top of this post. We will focus on v21 and the verses following, but I wanted to put it into context. Remember, we are dealing with a command. Paul tells us how to not worship God and then how to worship Him with our lives, by being Spirit-filled, then in Ephesians 5:19-6:4 he tells us what that looks like. In 5:21-6:4 he gives us God’s clear principle of submission for the Christian.
Here is v21 from the NASB, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Here is v21 from the NA28 Greek text of the New Testament, “Ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ, *” The word translated in the NASB as “be subject” is ὑποτασσόμενοι which is the present passive/middle participle form of ὑποτάσσω or hupotassō. Its root τάσσω or tassō originally carried the military connotation of drawing up troops into battle array. It could even apply to ships as well. It developed into the ideas of directing or appointing someone to a task and to arrange and put things in order. The prefix ὑπό or hupo means “under.” Combined together then, ὑποτάσσω could be illustrated as when someone joins the military. He or she can no longer act individually, governing self, but must voluntarily rank himself or herself underneath whoever is in authority over him or her. To submit as Paul commands Christians then is to voluntarily get in order under someone in one of God’s predefined positions. This is what Spirit-filled Christians do. This is exactly what those who are not Spirit-filled refuse to do. They are in rebellion to the will of God. God’s predefined order or positions in no way imply that anyone is inferior to another. Instead, it means that the Spirit-filled Christian is humble and is willing to be “ranked underneath” as God prescribes. As stated above, our God is not about chaos but order and in this plan there is order, not chaos.
Here is the entire passage:
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 5:18-6:4 NASB)
As you can see, the submission Paul is talking about is right in God’s eyes and Paul tells us why. We submit in these examples out of reverence for Christ, that is, as an act of worship. Spirit-filling brings proper submission, which in turn maintains proper order. Think of the impact this attitude of submission would have in our churches my brethren. I have seen for myself and heard from others where pastors and other leaders have tried to take this passage and others and use them to try to make slaves of their church members. That is not what Paul is talking about at all nor is that God’s plan for the Body of Christ. We worship our Heavenly Father when we are Spirit-filled and we cannot be Spirit-filled if we are in rebellion to this principle of submission.
Soli Deo Gloria!