Mutual Submission Ephesians 5:21

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Extra Extra!  Read all about it!  Earth Approaches Sun!  Think about what would happen if the earth started to inch closer to the sun.  Would you be afraid?  Would you fear the end of the world?  I’m no scientist, but my guess is that it would be bad, if not horrific, if the earth were ever to approach the sun. The sun is a powerful ball of fire, continuously burning as it sits at the center of our Solar System. It is almost a perfect circle over a 100 times bigger than that of Earth, and about 5,000 °C.

We probably do not appreciate the sun as often as we must.  We may fear inching closer, but from this distance, the sun gives us everything we want and need.  The truth is that we must be thankful for the sun, especially if we consider how much we depend on it every moment.

To whom should we be thankful for the sun?  Well, the bible states that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” including the sun.  But I did not come here today to discuss our Solar System, the sun or the earth.  What I am trying to do is to introduce to you the idea of approaching God.  Approaching Him, Him Who created the sun, Who created you and me, Who is a consuming fire, a jealous God; to whom if we fear, we will most assuredly also submit.

In the 5th chapter of the book to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul makes this quite clear.  He makes it clear that if we are truly fearful of approaching God, we will submit to God, and we will also submit to one another.

 Let’s open our Bibles to Ephesians chapter 5 verse 21.  It reads in the NIV, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And I say, Submit to one another out of Reverence for Christ.

Let us pray. Father, I approach you this morning as a sinner saved by grace through your Son Jesus Christ.  Please shed the light of your word to our minds and hearts today, so that we can serve you better and grow in Christlikeness.  I know Lord that you have the power to make the sun stand still and I know Father that you are our provider and protector that shows no partiality.  You cause the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.  Send forth your Holy Spirit today by your Grace.  We ask in Jesus name.  AMEN.

I am sure many of you are aware or have heard somewhere in your life, “Submit!”  Possibly within the church maybe even a few of you men have graciously pointed out to your wife that their responsibility is to submit to you, while you do whatever you want.  But then again, maybe I am the only one who is guilty of that!

Well, today, let’s take a closer look at what this text really is saying, rather than trying to make it say what some of us would want it to mean.

But before we get into submission, I would like get a little background of this text and then look at this text from a different angle, a different light, a different viewpoint.  As I mentioned, the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, while in prison around 60 to 62 A.D.  Ephesus was an ancient Greek city in what we know as modern day Turkey.  Paul, who was formally known as Saul of Tarsus and a Jew of the highest order, was an enemy of Christians.  Actually, he took part in the first murder of a Christian, His name was Stephen. But one day, as he was on his way to arrest more Christians, the Lord saved Paul.

Three years after his conversion to Christianity, he pastured a church in Antioch, where believers were first called Christians.  Then he and some fellow believers embarked on some adventurous missionary journeys.  God sent him to preach to the Gentiles and to the Gentiles Paul went.  Paul’s message was that both Jews and Gentiles were one in Christ; there was to be submission.  The Jews were quite upset with this idea since they spent their entire lives trying to live up to the law of God and now they were to accept Uncircumcised Gentiles as equals under the Jewish Messiah. The Gentiles too were upset because they had a liberty in Christ that was being attacked by the Jewish believers.  They both had a wrong view about submission.  However, Paul wanted to make clear that there was not to be two churches, but one: Jews and Gentiles one in Christ.

A gesture which Paul attempted to unite the church was to take a Gentile offering and give it to the Jewish church in Jerusalem as a demonstration of Christian love.  Paul’s point was to encourage and strengthen the oneness of the Body of Christ.  The letter to the Ephesians was based on this gesture.

Since the letter contains no specific address, it is thought that this letter was meant for everyone, but no one in particular.  The believers in Ephesus were to read it and the intention was for it to be passed around to the other churches in the area also.  Facebook hadn’t arrived on the scene yet!

As for the letter, we are going to look at the practical side.  Last week, brother Guy preached about Grace.  The Grace of God is mentioned in the first half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but in looking at the second half, or at least some verses, we will see what God says about our behavior in light of the doctrine of Grace.  We will see how our walk is to look by being in Christ.

Look again at the text.  Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Some versions say “to be subject to one another” instead of “submit”, while other versions say “submitting to one another.”  We will look at this in a moment, but I feel there is something more important to determine and that is the phrase that I think we most easily skim over.

Look at the text one more time.  What have I not focused on?

“Out of reverence for Christ.” Or some may have “the fear of Christ” or others may have “in the fear of God.”  As I asked upfront, “would you be fearful if the earth approached the sun?”  My more important question for you today is, “Are you fearful of God?”  The reality is that in order to establish the proper application of submission, there must be a proper understanding of the fear and reverence of God through Christ.

Throughout the bible there are various degrees and various meanings of fear.  Two words that stand out are dread or terror.  There are many ways in which people in the bible experienced fear such as from other humans (1 Kings 1:50-51), the natural world (Amos 3:8), or death (Job 3:25; 22:10), but the most frequent fear is in response to God.

Do we remember Adam?  He was rightly afraid of God after he sinned in the garden.  The fear of God is brought about by the brilliance of His divine nature.  As we hold ourselves up to the Ten Commandments of God’s law (lying, stealing, hatred, lust), we are able to see instantly of our fallen condition.  Even a man like Moses, who was so used by God, was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:6).  The bible gives great evidence of men of God such as Ezekiel (1:28), Isaiah (6:5), the 12 disciples (Mark 4:35-41), Peter (Luke 5:8) and John (Revelation 1:17, 18) whom were utterly speechless and at times had fallen to the ground as dead, because they were in the presence of almighty God.  They knew they had unclean lips and an unclean heart.  Job, for instance, had not done anything wrong in particular, but in light of the greatness of God, Job repented as his heart was humbled as he realized the sovereignty of God (Job 42:1-6; Isaiah 14:24; 46:8-11).

The point being is that in God’s presence you know your guilt, not unlike as the heat increases as noon day arises. Light and darkness shows great contrast.  To see God is to see your own fallenness, your own failures, your own mistakes, your own sin.  To be low, is to see high.  To be small, is to see big.  1 Peter 1:17 says, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;”  If you call yourself a Christian, you must fear God.  Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  The fear of the Lord then, is a state of mind in which your own attitude, your will, your feelings, your deeds, and your goals are exchanged for God’s.

Are you able to say with the Psalmist (42:1), “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God.”?  Are you able to agree with Jonah who said that he “fears the Lord God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land (2 Kings 17:25, 28, 32, 33).”?  And can you concur with Mary who said that, “His mercy is upon Generation after Generation toward those who fear Him” (Luke 1:50)?

So, those that fear God will live a life of service embodied in love and ethical behavior, because you know what the Lord has done for you.  Proverbs 14:2 reminds us that, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.” “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1)”.

Before moving to submission, let us take note of what Job remarks when he said, “And to man God said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding (28:28).”

You may not be afraid or fearful of the earth approaching the sun, but what are your fearful of today?  Is it God?  To be honest, I am quite fearful that I am not doing well right now and I fear that I am not as faithful to God’s word as I should be.  I am also fearful that I am not doing everything that I can in my marriage and in my role as father.  What fears do you have?  Or do you have any at all?

Hopefully, now that we have set fear in the proper place, we are ready to understand what it means to be subject or submit to one another.  Be subject (hupotasso) is actually a military term and it means to arrange or rank under.  Most of you have some sort of military training or at least you know someone who has.  To be subject to or submit to someone from the Christian perspective is to be ranked under someone else, but as spirit-filled, walking in the light of God’s word.  Christians are to relinquish or let go of your own rights to someone else who is higher than you.  In scripture we are commanded to be subject to the faithful ministers of the church (1 Corinthians 16:16) and yes to even rulers, kings, and governing bodies (1 Peter 2:13-15. cf. Romans 13:1-7).  We are to be subject to and in submission under those in authority.  All systems and structures have some sort of subjection.  You must serve someone.  Otherwise, there will be complete chaos.

How can a fallen person do this? We as believers, look to Christ as our example:

Philippians 2:5-8, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

There is a tension here and that tension is authority and submission.  It is crucial and it is precisely what I am trying to make clear today.  There is a balance that a Christian must seek to find in mutual loving submission, because we are people dealing with people.  We are fallen creatures and we need our relationships to be controlled by love and modified by mutual submission.  That is why my proposition for this message is that If believers fear God, we must mutually submit.

In the time remaining, I will make three points, so that you have something to take home with you today.

The first point that I would like to make in proving my proposition is that if believers fear God, masters and slaves must mutually submit.  Turn to Ephesians 6:5-9 and read along, “5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”

During this time, when Paul wrote the letter there were many slaves who were not treated well, but they were also Christians.  So Paul encouraged them to obey their masters with respect and a pure heart as if serving Christ Himself.  Paul explained that they were actually working for God and not man, so they were to be sincere and they were not to do their work well only when being watched, but at all times unto the Lord.

As for the masters, if you look at the text, (Ephesians 6:9), it says do the same thing.  Do not threat.  Do not abuse.  Your servants serve the same Master in Heaven.  Even though they are in submission to you structurally, the master must show a mutual honor and respect to their employees.

Listen to this illustration that I found entitled, “The Smallest Place”.  One of England’s most admired heroes, General Charles Gordon (1833-1885), was a devout Christian. Unconcerned about status and wealth, he was passionately ambitious to do God’s will. Gordon desired to serve the Lord faithfully, whether it was a big responsibility or a small, unnoticed task.

In a letter to a friend, he said that “governing huge countries, or . . . occupying the smallest place are the same in reality, for Christ rules events as much with respect to . . . government as He does in . . . little affairs.”

Do we believe, as Gordon did, that Jesus Christ is the omnipotent ruler of everything? Do we remember that He is Lord over our own “little affairs,” as well as over the governments of “huge countries”? Do we recognize that everything, big or small, is to be done “as to the Lord and not to men”? (Colossians 3:23).

If we recognize these truths, we will not grumble because God assigns us the “smallest place” rather than a position of prominence and great responsibility. Even if our situation in life is considered lowly by some, we can do all things as to the Lord and for His glory (1Corinthians 10:31).” End quote.

So, I am sure you get the idea.  Most of you work in the military and I am sure you are ranked under or over someone else that you do not appreciate as much as you think they deserve.  Or maybe some of you are not doing all that you can in the workplace.  Remember that you are to render your service unto the Lord.

The second point that I would like to make in proving my proposition is that if believers fear God, parents and children must mutually submit.  Back up a little and read with me Ephesians 6:1-4, “1Children, 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 go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

How many times have you disobeyed your parents?  Out of the three points that I am making here, this one in particular is mentioned in the Ten Commandments.  Number 5 on the list says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”  This does not mean that you will see 120 necessarily, but it does give wisdom in that if children respect their parents and submit to their authority, the home and on a grander scale, society, benefits with stability.

From the parents perspective there is no doubt that the parents should have the authority, especially when the children are young, but the warning comes in as to how that authority is utilized.  To be rigid and domineering produces adverse affects such as anger, despair and resentment.

Here is another illustration that I found to help tie the tensions together, entitled, “Dad’s Rules” The unsolicited e-mail was full of truth and wisdom. As the father of three daughters, I recognized that the note titled “Daddy’s Rules For Dating” offered advice dads can understand. With humor and sarcasm, it listed 10 rules for any boy who hopes to date our daughters.

Rule One, for example, says, “If you pull into my driveway and honk, you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re not picking anything up.” Translated: “Don’t you dare be rude.” Each rule had a nugget of truth fathers understand well: “Do not touch my daughter.” “Get my daughter home early.” “Treat my daughter with respect.”

We as fathers (and mothers) are protective of our children, and rightly so, because God has given them to us as a trust. And because our society does not value modesty and sexual purity, we must protect our sons and daughters.

That’s why the difficult but balanced teaching in Ephesians 6:4 is so vital. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” If we properly instruct our sons and daughters about what God expects of them, and live it out ourselves, we can avoid angering and discouraging them.

Instead of exasperating children, let’s teach them. To teach your children well, let God teach you.”

Again, we have an idea as to what to do.  Children and parents are to be mutually submissive.  Parents discipline and instruct your children in the ways of the Lord and they will learn to respect God’s commands.  But remember this is done in the fear and love of God.

The third point that I would like to make in proving my proposition is that if believers fear God, husbands and wives must mutually submit.  Back up a little further and read with me Ephesians 5:22-24, “22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Now stop.  This is the verse that I have so often misused and misapplied.  However, you can understand it better yourself.  Wives are to submit, but as to the Lord.  Which means men, we are to be acting as the Lord.  We are not to be as barbarians.  We are to act as Christ, loving, caring, and sacrificing ourselves for our bride.  I am sure the ladies would agree that it would be much safer submitting to Christ, than it would be to submit to you.

Continue reading, “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29

Love gentlemen.  Love.  Yes, we are in authority as the head of the household, but mutual submission is the example Christ gave as He humbled Himself and gave Himself for the Church.

There is no illustration that I have to express the mutual submission that must exist between husbands and wives, expect to point you to your Bible.  The entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation details for us the way in which God loved us enough to lay down His Son’s life.  God did not have to do anything to save us from our sins.  He could have rightfully condemned us to hell for eternity.  He has that power and authority.  Rather, he chose mercy and grace to express His love.

In the military or anywhere else, it is often hard to distinguish between work and home, kids and parental authority.  But I would like to remind you wives and husbands that you have a responsibility to one another and that responsibility is not only a command from God, but it is in response to what He has done for you.

In summary, the earth may or may not inch closer to the sun, but the Bible says that everyone is given one life then the judgment, so you will face Christ on judgment day.  The question will be, “Was I faithful with what God has given me?”

Were you in submission to one another out of the fear and reverence of a jealous God who deserves all that we can give.  Thanks be to God, for Jesus who makes our pitiful little efforts of any worth in the sight of God.  The Westminster Larger Catechism, asks in question 55: “Q: How does Christ make intercession?

A: Christ makes intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers; Answering all accusations against them, and securing for them a calm of sense of right and wrong, despite daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services.”

Be as Paul … crucified with Christ… being all things to all people in order to save some…submit to one another in the fear of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.  AMEN.

Let us pray.

Father I thank you for this opportunity.  I pray Lord that your Spirit is not only working in my heart but the listeners today.  This is a high calling to be holy as you are holy and we thank you that Jesus makes intercession on our behalf, but we also recognize our own responsibility.  May we repent for not fearing you in light of your word and not properly submitting to one another.  Lord you are faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  May you continue to apply Your word in our lives so that we are submitting to one another out of fear and reverence to you.  We thank you in Jesus name.  AMEN.


Marriage – Christ and the Church

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Rather than welcome myself to the world of blogging, I’d rather welcome myself to the world of manhood.  After many minute explosions of thought that seemed to be good ideas mounting to nothing, I have finally decided to write.  When did this take root? When was this seed planted?  I am not sure.  However, after coming across a fellow Canadian, Tim Challies and reading his tips on How to Start a Blog, along with other insights; also considering the New Year has just rang in here less than one hour ago, this is my cry to the world.  Actually, this evening (technically last evening), I came across something that added an extra pump that finally got the waters flowing.  Strangely enough it was from one of the most famous authors that I have never read, except for a feeble attempt in elementary school to look more intelligent than actually desire to learn something.  This king of writers makes it quite clear that to write well, you are to read much and write many (we’ll work on the grammar).

First thing is first, and that is the theme of this blog.  I guess it is not first, since I have rambled on thus far, but cut me some slack, I am new here.

Marriage – Christ and the Church.  My hope in this blog and in my writing and in all that I do is to Glorify God. That is the God of the Bible.  That is the creator of the heavens and the earth who before the foundation of the earth predestined to save a peculiar people, by and through His son and my Saviour Jesus Christ.  In time, I’d like to articulate my beliefs and unscramble my thinking as I am being changed from glory to glory.  Even now, I wonder what I am saying, but I know the fact of a new life because of Him.

God has granted me the wonderful privilege and great responsibility to love His daughter, my lovely wife.  We were brought together and in our first couple of years, I almost drove the two of us to a mental hospital or more realistically to our own deaths.  By His grace, He saved the both of us, and even though we have only been married for four long years, it has seemed as though His grace has allowed for a new outlook on the privilege  and responsibility that I took forward to living out as long as His will grants us time.

That is why I have been able to take this writing thing seriously.  Well, I say seriously, but I mean that I would like it to be an expression of what God is showing me by His word in our lives as we grow together.  So, I would like this first post to be a challenge to myself, but if anyone actually reads this, then I hope you too are able to take something from what I write.  If anything, I’d like to learn and be taught and corrected by those whom know more, and I know there are many.

Ephesians 5:25-33 “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…”

Today is January 1, 2012.  Happy New Year, by the way.  May my posts and marriage be grounded in Christ to the Glory of God.