Submit to One Another

July 27, 2023

This week, Ed Pavelec, one of Riverwood's elders, concludes our One Another series.

Submission is a hard topic. And the topic gets even more complicated when a Bible verse about submission is contemplated in isolation (both without another Jesus-follower and when we do not allow Scripture to inform itself). The verse I am thinking of is Ephesians 5:21, which says,

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Let us, therefore, take the verse out of isolation and put it in context by looking around verse 21. The moments leading up to verse 21 (as in verses 14 through 20) see Paul writing a long list of “don'ts” in the Christian life: don't be foolish, don't get drunk, don't be unwise. These "don'ts" are what people who are asleep or walking in darkness "DO" (verse 14).

As we approach verse 21, it builds from

  • being filled (like wind in sails) with the Spirit...
  • to uplifting yourself and others with psalms, hymns, and melody in your heart...
  • to giving thanks to God in Christ's name for what He has done IN YOU!

And where do these upward-looking steps get us? “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21).

Submit To One Another • Riverwood Church

As we continue past verse 21, it doesn't get any easier. Beginning in verse 22, submission is now detailed by member roles within a family (wives to husbands, children to parents, etc.). Why? Because the Church is a family!!! A Jesus-follower has an obligation to come to know the will of God (Ephesians 5:17) and to do it. This means we are to will and act for the highest good of one another, showing deference (submitting) to other believers.

But let me add this: Submission here requires discernment. We do not submit to Sin. We do not submit to abuse, manipulation, or cohesion. We do not submit to unrighteous violence. We do not submit to the casual whims of another, or to callous decision-making. We do not submit to every kind of doctrine nor some new understanding in teaching or translation. We test, we think, we discern, we contemplate and meditate on the things we encounter in this world.

Lastly, I want to point out that because submission is so hard, the ability to submit is a gift from God. Therefore, let us not misuse the gifts our Heavenly Father gives us! Followers of Jesus can especially submit because in and through God's grace, we can defer to one other, without malice, without want of return, without prideful consequence, because we ultimately submit to Christ, whose righteousness stands beyond our comprehension.

Jesus-followers are to go about the Christian life in obeisance. This is part of the work God gives us as we pray "Your Kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10) Submit where you can, where appropriate, where God allows for it and commands it. This is Love. This is right. And as Christ came to do the will of the One who sent Him, so we, in submission to Him, ought to do likewise.

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

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