Pastor David B. Curtis

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Mutual Submission?

Ephesians 5:21

Delivered 10/26/2014

We are looking at Ephesians 5 and talking about the results of being Spirit filled:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 NASB

"Be filled with the Spirit"—is a present, passive, imperative verb. That means it is not a choice, it is a command. And it is to be done not just once, but ongoing and for the rest of our lives. But it is something that must be done to us by the Spirit. We are to be filled. We saw from looking at the parallel passage in Colossians 3:16 that to be filled with the Spirit was the same as letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.

The expressions in the next three verses: speaking, singing, and making melody, giving thanks, and submitting are in the Greek text participles of result. These are the manifestations or results of the filling of the Spirit:

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; Ephesians 5:19 NASB

The first result of the filling of the Spirit is that we will be "speaking" of Yahweh to one another. The Word that is richly dwelling within us will be spilling out. The second result of the filling of the Spirit is introduced by two present participles, singing and making melody. Our singing to Christ the Lord must be from the heart. If you are filled by the Word and controlled by the Spirit, from your heart will come forth singing.

The next result of being filled with the Spirit is:

always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; Ephesians 5:20 NASB

The Spirit-filled Christian is evident by his on-going thanksgiving, expressed in the name of Christ to the Father. Such thanksgiving not only recognizes the existence of Yahweh, but His sovereign involvement in the life of the believer. It recognizes that all that happens in the believer's life is from Yahweh.

We see the final result of being controlled by the Spirit in:

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:21 NASB

"Be subject"—is the last of five participles that spell out the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit filled believer will live in subjection. In our culture it seems like submission or subjection are bad words. Our culture encourages everyone to stand up and fight for his or her rights. The feminist movement promotes women's rights. The homosexual movement promotes so-called "gay" rights. Some advocate children's rights to be free from parental authority. The interesting thing is they never seem to extend those rights to children who still happen to be in the womb. PETA promotes animal rights, often over and above human rights. Everyone is fighting for their rights, but the Spirit filled believer is submissive.

Grammatically, this verse seems to belong to the previous passage and refers to one of the results of being filled by the Spirit. In terms of content, however, the verse appears to introduce the next section on domestic relationships. In fact, it is verse 21 that supplies the verb for verse 22. Thus we must recognize the relationship of verse 21 with both the verses that precede and follow it. It is a hinge verse.

There are several diverse opinions on what this verse means. So let me remind you that we are all called to be Bereans, which means that you don't believe anything that you hear without studying it out for yourself. Speaking of Bereans, I had a Berean e-mail me last week about my comment of Sisera meaning snake. I had heard that from a Hebrew scholar many years ago, but never checked it out. When questioned on it this week I searched it out and can't find a connection between Sisera and snake, so I guess I wasn't a Berean and didn't check it out before passing it on. I apologize for that. And that is why I tell you not to believe what I say without checking it out.

There are two main views on this verse, one says that it is teaching "mutual submission," that every believer must submit to every other believer. The other view is that this verse is teaching submission to those who are in authority over you. The primary argument concerns the meaning of the verb "be subject."

"Be subject"—it seems like those who hold to the "mutual submission" view have redefined this word to mean "serve." One commentator writes, "There is a sense of mutual submission in biblical relationships in which we lay aside our rights and humbly serve one another in love." They are confusing submission and service. Those in submission do serve their authority, but those in authority can "serve" those under them without submitting to them. A general can take a private a cup of coffee, this is service, but it is not submission. The general is in charge and the private knows it no matter how many times he is served coffee from the general.

We clearly are called to serve one another:

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 NASB

We are to serve one another, but hupotasso goes beyond service. The word "serve," which is from the Greek word douleuo, means:"to be a slave, to serve, or to do service." In Ephesians 6, slaves (dulos) are told to submit (hupotasso). So submission is different than service.

In attempting to support the view of "mutual submission" one commentator writes, "Jesus was in authority over the disciples, but He laid aside His rights and washed their feet." Yes, Yeshua was in "authority"— He is the head of the Church. Him serving them does not make them his authority. As Yeshua washed their feet, He made it clear that He was still the Lord and Teacher:

"You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. John 13:13 NASB

He did not relinquish His authority when He served others.

John MacArthur, who holds the "mutual submission" view, writes, " As husbands, there's a way in which you submit to your wives. Children submit to parents, but parents also submit to children. It's mutual." Andrew Wommack writes, "That means that submission is not a one-sided thing. Even husbands are to submit to their wives." Show me that from the Scriptures! Where are husbands ever told to submit to their wives? How would a household function if submission was mutual? The children might decide to go to Disney World instead of paying the mortgage payment.

This view of "mutual submission" that seems to be held by most sees hierarchical distinctions, they think we should all submit to each other, but they also see submission to hierarchy. But included in this view would be so-called evangelical feminism, which takes Ephesians 5:21 as an over arching, controlling principle of mutual submission that abolishes any hierarchical distinctions based on gender in the church or home. They would also appeal to Galatians 3:28, where Paul states:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Yeshua. Galatians 3:28 NASB

This verse, it is claimed, does away with any gender-based roles in marriage or in church leadership.

A second view is that verse 21 does not refer to the mutual submission of everyone in the church. Rather, it refers to wives submitting to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters, as spelled out in the following verses. The main argument for this view is that the semantic meaning of the Greek word for "submit" almost exclusively refers to someone subjecting himself or herself to another who is in authority over that person.

"Be subject"—is the Greek verb hupotasso, which comes from two Greek words: the word hupo, which means: "under," and tasso, which means: "to set in place, to order oneself." In other words, the word means: "to set something in place up under something else." Hupotasso regularly functions to describe a one directional subordination to another's authority, rather than a symmetrical relationship. O'Brien writes, "It always has to do with an ordered relationship in which one person is 'over' and another 'under.'" Therefore, to say that the word can refer to a relationship of mutual and reciprocal submission would be to misunderstand the semantic range of the term. The word hupotasso disallows the "mutual submission" interpretation of the verse; rather, it denotes a one-directional submission to the proper authority in any given situation. If A is subject to B, than B is over A and A, therefore, cannot be over B.

As I said, hupotasso almost exclusively refers to someone subjecting himself or herself to another who is in authority over that person. In the forty three New Testament occurrences the verb carries an overtone of authority and subjection or submission to it. Let's look at a few of its uses:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." Luke 10:17 NASB
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, Romans 8:7 NASB
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1 NASB
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, Ephesians 1:22 NASB
But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:24 NASB
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, Titus 3:1 NASB
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 1 Peter 2:13 NASB

None of the relationships where this verb appears is reversed: husbands are never told to be subject to their wives, nor parents to children, nor the government to citizens, nor slaves to masters.

Piper & Grudem state, "The word is never 'mutual' in its force; it is always one-directional in its reference to submission to an authority" Authority and submission are necessary to accomplish any purpose through a group, whether it is to build a house or to run a company, an army, a country or family.

Hupotasso always requires one party in a relationship to submit to the other, and not vice versa. The context of Ephesians 5:21 supports this position. In this verse, Paul makes a general call to all Christians to submit to one another in whatever hierarchical relationships they are involved in. He then gives three specific examples of relationships in which submission of one party is required. Verse 21 is thus properly understood as an introductory verse to those which follow.

"To one another"—the main argument of the "mutual submission" view is this term, "one another," which seems to refer to mutual submission. Bob Definbough writes, "This submission is not just to those who are in authority over us. This submission is mutual—one to another."

What they don't seem to understand is that "one another" does not necessarily imply an equal and reciprocal relationship. For example, Paul writes in Galatians 6:2:

Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NASB

Then he writes in verse 5, "For each one shall bear his own load." His point is that whereas each person should "bear his own load," the stronger should help the weaker, or those who are capable should help those who are in need. He certainly does not mean that we should each exchange our "burdens," and to never bear our own load, but to always bear the burdens of other people.

Another example is Revelation 6:4:

And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. Revelation 6:4 NASB

This means that men would fight among themselves, and that many of them would be killed. It is certainly not asserting that there would be mutual destruction in every confrontation, that people would be killed in pairs, or that both parties in every confrontation would always kill each other. Obviously, it does not mean that everyone mutually kills everyone, but rather that some would kill others.

So the "one another" in Ephesians 5:21 does not necessarily imply "mutual submission" in the sense of a reciprocal submission; instead, we must determine the meaning by observing the context.

A completely reciprocal submission would mean that where wives must submit to husbands, husbands must also submit to wives in exactly the same sense and to exactly the same extent. Paul nor any other New Testament writer ever says that husbands must submit to wives, that parents must submit to children, or that masters must submit to slaves.

So, Ephesians 5:21, where it is argued, "be subject to one another," could be paraphrased, "Those who are under authority should be subject to others among you who have authority over them"

Alright, so what he is saying is that all of us who are controlled by the Spirit are to be submissive to what ever authorities are in our lives. And what we must understand is that all human authority is delegated and ministerial. This includes the authority of parents, employers, policemen, teachers, church leaders, or any other authority. Anyone who is in a place of authority on earth, has had that authority delegated to him by Yahweh. We just saw this in Romans 13:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1 NASB

We see this same idea taught in Daniel:

Daniel said, "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. "It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. Daniel 2:20-21 NASB

Yahweh sets up and removes kings:

"You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; Daniel 2:37 NASB

Who is the king here? It is Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who came and conquered Jerusalem. All authorities, good and bad, are put in place by the sovereign Yahweh, and we are called to submit to them.

Just because someone is in authority over us doesn't mean that they're better than us, or smarter than us, or more qualified than us. Subordination involves no degradation; a person is not dishonored by being subject to someone else.

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB

The word "head" is from the Greek word kephale, which means: "government or authority." Authority and subordination have nothing to do with essence, it strictly deals with function. In essence and nature, Christ and Yahweh are equal; but by Yahweh's design, the function of the Son demanded that He submit to the Father in a beautiful act of humiliation.

By nature we are all rebels, our pride causes us to rebel against authority. We don't want anyone telling us what to do, especially someone who is not as smart as we are. Remember our context in Ephesians 5, submission is the mark of a Spirit controlled believer.

David was aware that all authority came from Yahweh, and, therefore, he was submissive to it:

"Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it. "May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you. 1 Samuel 24:11-12 NASB

David had already been anointed king, but he still viewed Saul as in authority. Saul was a sinful man, but David continued to see him as the Lord's anointed. May the Spirit of God instruct us from the examples in His Word, and may we have the heart of David, a spirit of submission to authority.

When I am in a store and I see a door with a sign that reads, "Employees only," I do not enter. Not because entering would break some law. I do not enter because the governing authority of that store has said that I am not to enter. And I am called to obey and not resist the authority of the store owner, just as I am called to obey the rules of my neighbor when I am on his property or in his house. We are to obey those who govern our various situations: my neighbor on his property, the security guard at the mall, and the shopkeeper in his store. Christians make the best citizens because they strive to live in submission to authority.

Are there limits to submission? Sure there are. We are never to violate Scripture to submit to anyone:

saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:28-29 NASB

As Christians, no earthly law can exceed the Word of God. When the two clash, God always wins. And when the governing authority extends its reach beyond its defined role, I believe it has become an enemy of Yahweh. This is true whether the ruler is the king or a group of neighbors acting as the local faction that is democracy. And it is even true when the ruler is the owner of the store, or your neighbor in his backyard.

So, there are limits to authority. A father has authority in his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife and children? Of course not. An employer has authority on the job, but does this give him power to control the private lives of his employees? No. A pastor has overseer authority in the church, but does this give him power to tell those in his church not to have children? No, it does not, but Televangelist Ernest Angley has long controlled members of his Akron-area congregation by advising them not to have children.

The Akron Beacon Journal published a series of articles starting last week after interviewing more than 20 former members of Grace Cathedral in Akron. Several people told the Beacon Journal that they and their spouses did not have children because husbands were encouraged to have vasectomies, and that Angley examined the men before and after surgery. One woman told the newspaper she was pressured into having an abortion.

Angelia Oborne said that Angley advised a friend to think of the fetus inside her as "a tumor." "She was four months pregnant, and she sat in the [abortion clinic] waiting room, and told her baby that she was so sorry that she was doing this," Oborne said. "I know another girl — she won't come forward — but she was forced into having four abortions."

People, that is sick, to let a man who calls himself a pastor force you to murder is wrong! All human authority is limited. No man has unlimited authority over the lives of other men.

So Paul says that we are to "be subject to one another" and then he adds,

"In the fear of Christ"—sadly all too often a proper fear of God is not a prominent part of the Christian's life. Fear of Yahweh just isn't part of the culturally correct, which means mainly psychologically correct view of the healthy, satisfying religious life. Fear is viewed as harmful by our culture. Children have no fear of their parents. Citizens have no fear of lawful authorities. And yet the Bible tells us to live out our lives in fear.

This is a subject that you don't hear much in our day, but it is still vital to the Christian's faith. We desperately need to recover a sense of awe and reverence for Yahweh in our day. We must begin to view Him in the infinite majesty that belongs to Him, who is the Creator and Supreme Sovereign of the universe. There is an infinite gap in worth and dignity between Yahweh, the Creator, and man, the creature. The fear of Yahweh is a heartfelt recognition of this gap.

The Bible uses the expression "fear God" 17 times; the expression "fear the Lord" 35 times; and the expression "the fear of the Lord" 27 times; and "fear of Christ" once. As Christians, we are called to fear Yahweh.

What, then, does it mean to fear the Lord? When we truly fear the Lord, we will recognize that He is the Creator, and we are the creatures. He is the Master, and we are the servants. He is the Father, and we are the children. This attitude will manifest itself in our having a respect for Yahweh, and in our having a desire to do what He tells us to in His Bible. We can relate this kind of fear to that which a child has for his parents. If the right kind of fear is present, the child knows that his parents can hurt him if there is disobedience, but overriding that fear is the knowledge that disobedience hurts the parents, and the child loves and respects his parents and does not want to hurt them. To put it simply, the fear of the Lord is a deep seated reverence for God that causes men to want to please Him at all costs.

Fear of the Lord is always demonstrated by obedience to the Word of God:

By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil. Proverbs 16:6 NASB

This verse tells us that the fear of Yahweh promotes holy living. The person who truly reverences and respects the Lord as he should will not do anything that brings disgrace, dishonor, or pain to the heart of the Lord. People who genuinely fear Yahweh will flee from evil. And people who do not flee from evil do not fear Yahweh, regardless of what they profess with their lips. Therefore, when we fear Yahweh, there is an element of dread at what His wrath can do, but there is also such a respect for Him and for His will that nothing else matters, but doing that which pleases Him.

The "fear of Yahweh" comes through a knowledge of the Word of God! No wonder there is so little fear of Yahweh today among His people, it is because there is so little time spent in His word.

Then Moses commanded them, saying, "At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. "Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. "Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess." Deuteronomy 31:10-13 NASB

Notice that the children of Israel were told to gather every seven years to read and hear the Word... "that they may learn to fear Yahweh." As you spend time in the Word of God, you will gain a healthy degree of the "fear of Yahweh."

Have you ever felt an awe or fear for Yahweh as you've read of His judgments in the Bible?:

"Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' declares the LORD, 'and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 'Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 'This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jeremiah 25:8-11 NASB

It's hard to read that without feeling a sense of fear and awe. Do you think that Yahweh still judges nations and people for their sin? I do!

To "fear Yahweh" is an instruction to stand in awe of Him. I draw your attention here to Israel's crossing of the Red Sea. Once God had led Israel through the sea on dry land to the other side, and then drowned the stubborn Pharaoh and his army in that Sea, we read this response from the people:

When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses. Exodus 14:31 NASB

This fear was not panic or horror or terror of Yahweh; this fear was rather awe, respect, reverence for Yahweh. On the far banks of the Red Sea the people stood in amazement at the wonderful things that Yahweh in wisdom had done for their deliverance. Do you stand in awe at the power and wisdom of Yahweh?

In the New Testament, we see an ever-increasing fear of the Lord Yeshua the more men came to understand who He is. The disciples feared when they witnessed the stilling of the storm:

And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" Mark 4:39-41 NASB

Can you even imagine? Watching the storm stop dead in its tracks and the water going flat as glass. There was a fear, an awe of Christ. Men also became fearful at the raising of the widow's dead son:

The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Yeshua gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" Luke 7:15-16 NASB

That is power, telling the dead to get up. The disciplining of Ananias and Sapphira produced a healthy fear in the church and outside:

And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. Acts 5:5 NASB

As we spend time in the Word of God, we will learn to fear Him. It is important to emphasize, however, that we must read ALL of God's Word. Some read only those portions that will reveal God's love and mercy, and have no "fear of Yahweh." Others emphasize the "fire, hell, and brimstone" passages, and know nothing of God's everlasting loving kindness and love. The one develops an attitude of permissiveness that belittles God's holiness and justice. The other develops a psychosis of terror that forgets God's grace and compassion.

When ever men in Scripture were in the presence of Yahweh their response was always fear. Yahweh is Holy, He is just, He is righteous, and we are to fear Him. As we study the Scriptures, we will see Yahweh in all His majesty and glory, and it will cause us to stand in awe of Him, which in turn will cause us to live in obedience. Solomon put it this way:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. Ecclesiastes 12:13 NASB

Amen! When you fear Him, you will obey Him.

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