************ Sermon on Ephesians 5:21 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on January 16, 2000

Ephesians 5
Ephesians 5:21
"Submit to One Another"

"Submit to one another." According to Scripture this is something we all should be willing to do for one another as part of the fellowship of believers gathered together by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Fellowship among Christians takes many different forms. In what we know as the "one another" passages the Bible tells us what we are called to do for "one another" within the fellowship of believers. There are over fifty such passages in the New Testament. Let me highlight just some of them:
Love one another Jn 13:34-35, Gal 5:14
Encourage one another Heb 3:13; 10:24-25
Be devoted to one another Rom 12:10
Build up one another Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11
Be kind to one another 1 Thess 5:15
Accept one another Rom 15:7
Serve one another Gal 5:13
Have concern for one another 1 Cor 12:25
Confess your sins to one another Jm 5:16
Forgive one another Eph 4:32
Pray for one another Jm 5:16
Don't judge one another Rom 14:13
Don't slander one another Jm 4:11
This evening we are told, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." All of this is part of our fellowship with one another as part of Christ's body because He died and arose.

In my office I have a book entitled, "God's One Another Plan." As is obvious from all of the "one another" passages, it is God's plan, God's will, that we act in a certain way towards one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Joined together by the death and resurrection of Christ we have a responsibility to and for each other.

I Submit
A "Submit to one another." That word submit is powerful. It means to lose or surrender one's own rights or will. It means to give precedence to others. It is not that submissive people think less of themselves; rather, they just think about themselves less. They put the other person before themselves.

"Submit." In the Greek the word is a participle that should be translated as "submitting." It calls for continuous action, not a one time act. We are always and continually to submit.

B "Submit to one another." Who is it that we are to submit to? The Bible tells children to submit to their parents. Slaves are told to submit to their masters. Wives are told to submit to husbands. The church is told to submit to Christ.

We can extend this idea of submission to life today. An employee is to submit to an employer. Students are to submit to teachers. A flock is to submit to its shepherd. A people are to submit to its government.

Of special interest to us today is that Christians are told to submit to one another. Which means that each of us is to give precedence to others. Each of us is to put everyone else first. In the body of Christ everyone is to be busy surrendering their rights and their wills for the sake of their brother and sister.

C Do you know what happens when we submit to one another? When we submit to one another we cannot possibly have church fights and splits and divisions. When we submit to one another there is no one in the fellowship of the church motivated by ego and power trips and the me-first syndrome. When we submit to one another there can be no one in the body of Christ who insists on having their own way. When we submit to one another we live up to the words and spirit of what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi:
(Phil 2:2-4) ... make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

II Voluntary Submission
A "Submit to one another." Those who do what Paul says don't submit because they have to, but because they want to. In the original Greek the verb "submit" is in the middle voice. Literally, it means "place yourself in submission."

There was a time when a slave had no choice but to submit to a master but once that slave became a Christian he or she wanted to submit.
The best Biblical example is Onesimus, the run-away slave of Philemon. He resented submitting to Philemon so much that he stole money from Philemon and ran away to Rome (he could have been crucified for this). While in Rome Onesimus met Paul and, by God's grace, became a Christian. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon not as a rebellious slave but as brother in the Lord who voluntarily submits and serves.
Likewise, there was a time when wives were treated as a piece of property and had no choice but to submit but once they became a Christian they wanted to submit. And, there was a time when men had to submit to their rulers or be executed but once they became a Christian they wanted to submit.

What I am saying is that for the Christian submission comes from the inside rather than the outside. The submission Paul talks of is a voluntary choice rather than a legal requirement. Paul was after a spirit of humility by choice and not by coercion. Paul, in other words, was pro-choice when it came to submission.
Topic: Marriage
Index: 1620-1621
Date: 6/1992.7

Shortly after her marriage to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria had a quarrel with her new husband. Albert walked out of the room and locked himself in his private apartment. Victoria hammered furiously on the door. "Who's there?" called Albert.
"The Queen of England, and she demands to be admitted." There was no response, and the door remained locked. Victoria hammered again.
"Who's there?" The reply was the same, and still the door remained shut. More fruitless and furious knocking was followed by a pause. Then there was a gentle tap.
"Who's there?" Albert asked.
"Your wife, Albert," the Queen replied. The prince opened the door at once!
As the Queen of England, Victoria had the right to demand that Albert open the door. But by making that demand as Queen all that she created was resentment. However, once she came in humble submission, then the door was opened.

B "Submit to one another" or "place yourself in submission to one another." Practically speaking, what does voluntary submission mean for the church? It means that members voluntarily submit themselves to the rule of the elders even when it comes to chastisement, admonishment, and discipline. [Remember how you promised to do this when you joined the church as a professing member?] Voluntary submission means the silent majority and the noisy minority both strive to do what is best for the body instead of insisting on their way. It means that those who want change voluntarily restrain their desires and still their tongues for the sake of those who resist change. It means that those who are uncomfortable with change voluntarily restrain their desires and still their tongues for the sake of those who are eager for change. It means the young put the old first and the old put the young first. Voluntary submission means that we always take the time to listen to one another. Voluntary submission means that we put the other members first.

In the verses that immediately follow our text Paul applies what he says to marriage. What does voluntary submission mean for marriage? It means that husbands and wives adopt as their own the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the other person. It means you lay aside your own selfish desires for the good and for the sake of your marriage partner. It means instead of seeking your own happiness and fulfillment you seek the other person's happiness and fulfillment in your marriage. It means you put the other person first.

"Submit to one another." What a beautiful thing what is more captivating than those in the body of Christ submitting to one another? Or, what is more captivating than a husband and wife seeking the good and happiness of the other person?

C Submission is beautiful. Yet, very little is harder than submission. You see, submission is contrary to the nature of fallen people; it is contrary to the nature of sinful persons. We all rebel against submitting ourselves to others. It just is not natural. Fallen creatures are self-centered, me-centered. Fallen creatures look to their own happiness and fulfillment first. Fallen creatures think about themselves first. Submission is totally alien to such people. This failure to submit is one of the reasons so many marriages today end up in divorce, why so many churches have fights and splits, why family members can spend years without talking to one another.

Submission may be beautiful but it is not easy at all. Consider this e-mail I received a couple of weeks ago:
Topic: Government
Date: 1/2000.101
Title: Guess Who?

Can you imagine working at the following Company? It has a little over 500 employees with the following statistics:
*29 have been accused of spousal abuse
*7 have been arrested for fraud
*19 have been accused of writing bad checks
*117 have bankrupted at least two businesses
*3 have been arrested for assault
*71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
*14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
*8 have been arrested for shoplifting
*21 are current defendants in lawsuits
*In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving

Can you guess which organization this is?

Give up?

It's the 535 members of your United States Congress. The same group that perpetually cranks out hundreds upon hundreds of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in line.
Every fiber of my being rebels against submitting to such a group. Many women are more talented than their husbands, more gifted, better leaders, and more spiritually mature. In today's climate of equal rights and women's liberation, it is very difficult for such women to submit to their husbands. There are church members who are wiser, better educated, and more successful than other members. It doesn't make sense for them to submit. In each and everyone of these situations that submission stuff just is not natural. And no one expects it today. Yet, God wants us to submit voluntarily to the governing authorities. God expects wives to submit voluntarily to their husbands. And, God expects all members to submit voluntarily to one another.

III Out of Reverence for Christ
A "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Notice, why you are to submit to one another: "out of reverence for Christ."

Notice, you aren't told to submit because the other person is perfect. Notice, you aren't told to submit because the other person is such a worthy, deserving, righteous, and upstanding model of godliness. You aren't told to submit because the other person has earned it or deserves it. No, you are to submit to one another "out of reverence for Christ." Because of Who Christ is, because of the place He occupies in Your life, because of what He has done for you at the cross and the grave, you are to submit to one another.

B Herein lies the secret to submission. What is impossible and unnatural for sinful, fallen people is possible for those Who know and love and serve Jesus. People who love Jesus are able to submit to one another. You see, people who love Jesus are like Jesus Himself.

Don't forget what it means to be like Jesus. Jesus submitted Himself to the will of God and went the way of the cross and the grave. Jesus submitted Himself to a servant nature and washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Jesus, the King of the universe, practiced humble and voluntary submission.

When we come to Jesus, when we make Him the Center and Master of our lives, then we become like Him and become able to submit to one another.

IV Shows Filling of the Spirit
A Let me conclude with one final thought. Again, it requires an understanding of the Greek language. I said that word "submit" is the participle "submitting." Now, a participle depends on a verb. So we have to look earlier in Ephesians for a verb. We don't find a verb in verse 20. Nor in verse 19. We have to go all the way back to verse 18 to find the verb that the participle "submitting" hangs upon. There we find the verb "fill." Paul says, "be filled with the Spirit." Or, "be under the control of the Spirit."

B Paul tells us four things that show we are under the control of the Spirit.
  1. Verse 19a - "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs."
  2. Verse 19b - "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord."
  3. Verse 20 - "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
  4. Verse 21 - "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Do you realize what submitting shows? Submitting shows you are filled with the Spirit of Christ. Submitting shows you are following the leading of the Spirit. Submitting shows you are living as born-again children of God. Submitting shows yourself to be one of Christ's true disciples.

C "Be filled with the Spirit." The Spirit that we are talking about is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that makes us like Christ, the Spirit that draws us ever closer to Christ.

Spirit-led people, Spirit-filled people, Spirit-born people in the midst of a world that laughs at submission are given all the resources they need to do what otherwise is not possible. In Christ and through the power of His Spirit they are granted the grace and the power and the humility to submit to one another.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." This is what God wants and expects to see in the body of Christ.
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