Nov 7 2021 Eph 5 - What does it really mean to Submit? Or - How to be Filled with the Spirit

We are in Ephesians – last week, we ended on chapter 5, verse 18:

Ephesians 5:18 18 Do not get drunk on wine,

which leads to debauchery.


be filled with the Spirit,

Paul is making a contrast between being drunk/filled with wine and being drunk/filled with the spirit!

What do you allow to control or influence you? Alcohol influences our thoughts and behavior – and Paul is saying that God’s Spirit needs to be the one who influences our thoughts and behaviors. If we wish to be faithful witnesses/disciples, we must be filled with the Spirit. If we wish to participate in Christ’s victory over the powers of evil, we must be filled with the Spirit. When Jesus went to the wilderness, the Bible says that the Spirit drove him there. If we wish to create a diverse and led group of disciples, we need to be filled with the Spirit.

When we come to Christ, we are sealed with the Spirit. We are not getting any more of the Spirit. He is saying we need to allow the Spirit to have control and influence in our lives.

How does that happen?

Paul has been telling us all along! Everything he has said to this point tells us! Now he will give us some practical things we can do:

speaking to one another

in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,

First – we must simply WORSHIP! And praise, specifically through singing.

Psalms/Hymns/Spiritual songs – Praise choruses/Hymns/Gospel music? Probably not that! Psalms – Hebrew word – Hymn: Greek word – Focus your singing on Yahweh – God – songs that worship and praise God.

You can see how it is written – I have bolded a few things – speak to one another – but we are to sing unto the Lord! What is he getting at here? Notice, we are in the one-another verses here… - Paul is saying – when we come together and sing to the Lord, God uses our singing to speak to one another – to speak to us. As we are singing to God and as all of us in our hearts are singing to God, God takes that singing and turns it back and uses it to speak into the hearts of all who hear!

Second – maybe a little harder to see – and let me add, this is not just about Sunday morning. Paul doesn’t think that way. Any gathering – you are to be doing this – But Paul wants Gentile Christians to incorporate biblical poetry into their regular interaction and communication within the Church! This was a common practice of the Jewish people. You see it in the writings of the New Testament. The number 1 passage quoted in the NT from the OT is Psalm 110. That language just filled their beings. Our vocabulary has the power to shape the community. It shapes cultures! The same is true within the church – and Paul is trying to get them to adopt these things into the language of praise and worship into the community.

We’ve been talking about animosity and speech – don’t do certain things – let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth – only that which is for edification. Fill our hearts/minds with God’s word and then bring that in.

Verse 20 continues that:

singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Next – being filled with the Spirit is about giving thanks.

It is through worship, praise, and thanksgiving – these three things must be characteristics of the church – especially in their context. If being filled with the Spirit would transform them from a community of division, anger, hostility to one of unity, love, and thanksgiving – then be transformed!

We become radically different from the communities of our world.

First – Singing, then, giving thanks – both, not that hard. Now:

Ephesians 5:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Submit is a very uncomfortable word for us. Here is what I would say about that – what it means to us is definitely different than what it means for Paul.

When we think of submitting to one another – we think of being compliant or acquiescing – or being docile – or to obey and do what you’re told. In the most negative terms – it means becoming a doormat – or even worse – becoming vulnerable to abuse.

‘Submit’ – is based on your own personal experience. Your feelings will vary! Some might think it is a great word! Others ask why is that there?

Paul is talking about personal and social rank and status. This word would be literally translated – rank yourself under one another.

We don’t use that language except in the military. We don’t use rank in our natural speech – hopefully not in the church. The first century culture was built on ranking in social/religion/economic/ family areas – even in a family, people had different rankings. Same in religious settings. We don’t think that way, because we live in a world of equality – so it makes it hard for us to know what to do with this – so we need a better understanding because it is foundational to the working of the church. Paul is unraveling the ranking and culture based on shame.

When someone says they are better than us, that is a slam! That is one of the worst things you can do – to think you are better than someone else. That is how it worked in their world – everyone knew who was better!

Here is what is important: When everyone considers themselves as lower than everyone else – that is how all rank is removed – how all status is eliminated. When everyone considers themselves under everyone else.

Four things Paul tells us:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Out of reverence for Christ. This is what Jesus did when He left heaven – became human – lowered himself – when HE went to the Cross, He put Himself at the bottom of social status.

When we look at others, we see them as ‘in Christ’ – so instead of submit – let’s say we value them as more important than ourselves – it means we are valuing Christ. When you submit to another, you are submitting to Jesus.

Submitting to one another does not remove the structure or organization in the Church. You can hold position in leadership and hold office and lead and serve effectively while submitting yourself to all others. That is the way to actually lead – by submitting.

Of course, Paul was subverting the culture of first-century Rome – it was a critique of how things were done – and Paul is saying – not to do it like they do.


Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; (Rom 12:10)

Honor is given -in their context – to kings, emperors, and others who were in charge – people of status. Paul is saying – all of us, in Christ, are people of status – and all of us should give honor to everyone – not to just those in charge or who have position.

To give preference – to outdo one another in showing honor – more literally – lead out in showing honor to others.

If you ever want to be a leader in the church – you lead by honoring others - showing honor to others.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; (Phil. 2:3)

All of this takes humility. If you have an issue with pride, you cannot do this! You CANNOT do this in pride – you must be humble.

More important: superior. That is hard for us. We live in a value where self-worth is really important – having a good self-image. Those with bad self-images we think are unhealthy. But the Bible turns it all upside down. He is saying you can have a healthy self-image – understand your intrinsic value in Christ – and still treat others as more important than you. In fact – that is the ONLY way to have a healthy self-image. Because that is who God is at His core.

Have this attitude which was in Christ – to consider everyone as superior – He let it all go and lowered Himself even becoming a slave and dying on the cross. A slave was the lowest ranked person in the Roman world. That is where Jesus goes.

Fourth practical step:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13 NET)

How do we submit to one another? Loving service in all its forms. Very practical! How do you show honor and submit to others? By serving.

You are saying ‘you are more valuable than I am’ – in a proper and biblical way when you serve.

The disciples were arguing about who was greatest among them…

Mark 10:

42 Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them

There is never freedom to act like those in authority – not even for our cause – we think our cause is just and so important and I am so right in what I believe that I have to act like that! But Jesus says – it is not that way with you…

. 43 But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. – the lowest ranked person of all.

Jesus lived this! John 13 – foot washing was to be done by the lowest-ranked person in the room! Who gets up? Jesus.

Servant of All

"If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. (Joh 13:14-15)

What does it mean to be the Lord and Teacher? It means to wash feet – that is what Lords and Teachers do – if that is what He does – we should do the same.

For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. (2 Cor. 4:5)

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