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Ephesians 5:21


Intro: We have been talking about the Spirit-Filled life. In verse 18, the Lord commands His people to “be filled with the Spirit.” This means that we are to be brought under the Spirit’s control in every area of our lives. Just like the drunkard is controlled by excessive alcohol consumption, the believer is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.


Alcohol has the ability to absolutely control the life of the person who consumes too much of it. When a person yields their life to alcohol, the way they think, act, talk, walk, move, etc. are all affected by the power of the alcohol they drink. In the same way, a Christian who yields to the Holy Spirit finds that the Spirit will take complete charge of their lives.


He will take control of the way they think, walk, talk, act, move, etc. Every aspect of the life of the Spirit-filled saint of God will be transformed by the power of the Spirit of God.


In our last look at the is passage, we considered verses 19-20. In those verses, we talked about Spirit-Filled Worship. I found it amazing that as soon as Paul told us to “be filled with the Spirit,” he immediately began to talk about our worship life. It seems to me that a Spirit-filled life will be a worshipping life. The person who is filled with the Holy Ghost will find themselves singing, praising and worshipping the Lord.


I would cal your attention to the fact that verses 18-21 are all one sentence. The command to “be filled with the Spirit” cannot be separated from the command to sing and to “make melody in your heart tot he Lord.” Neither can it be divorced from the command we find in verse 21.


The Spirit-filled believer will be under the control of the Lord. The Spirit-filled believer will have a heart of love and worship for their Redeemer. According to verse 21, the Spirit-filled believer will also be a humble, submissive believer. The command in verse 21 is “Submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.” It is a command for us to be humble. It is a command for us to be submissive. It is a command for us to live out the Spirit-filled life with the humble heart of a servant.


I want to take a few minutes today to consider the message of verse 21. I want to preach about Spirit-Filled Submission. Let me share a few thoughts that we need to hear, if we are to be a Spirit-filled people who bring glory to God.



•  The verse says, “Submitting yourselves one to another…” The phrase is a command. Submission, whatever it is, is a command and not an option. If this is something the Lord expects us to do, then we need to find out what it is, and we need to get about doing it.


The word translated “submitting” means “to be in obedience to; to be under; to arrange under.” It is a military term that refers to “keeping one’s rank.” It is the idea of “subordination


In this context, the word speaks to our relationships with others. He plainly says, “submitting yourselves one to another.” In this verse, “submission” calls each one of us to consider ourselves “subordinate” to others.


This means that we are to consider ourselves the servants of others. It means that in everything others are to come before we do.


•  When we think of submitting to others, we often think of it as a weakness. In truth, no one can make you submit to anyone. But, if you want all the relationships in your life to prosper, a submissive spirit must dominate. If we walk in selfishness, putting ourselves ahead of others, the fallout can destroy every relationship we value.


•  When we are submissive we are acting like Jesus. While He was, and is God in the flesh, the Lord Jesus was always in total submission to the will of His Father.

-   “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work,” John 4:34.

-   “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me,” John 5:30.

-   “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” John 6:38.

-   The greatest examples of His submission to the Father are found in the incarnation and in the crucifixion. (Ill. Phil. 2:6-8; Luke 22:42)


Jesus was submissive to the will of His Father. He lived His entire life serving the needs of others. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for manyMark 10:45.


•  When we walk through this world in a submissive spirit, we are walking like our Savior walked. In fact, when we walk in submission to God and others, we are giving concrete evidence that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. A key component of the Fruit of the Spirit is “temperanceGal. 5:23.


When we walk in the Spirit, we exhibit “temperance,” which refers to “self-control.” When we put others first, we are controlling the impulse to exalt self. That is a powerful impulse, but yielding to the Spirit of God enables us to keep God an others in their proper place.


I would also mention that “love” is also a major component of the Fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22. When you study true, biblical love, it becomes very clear that one way love manifests itself is by putting others ahead of self. 1 Cor. 13:5 says that love “seeketh not her own.” That simply means that “love does not put itself first


•  Biblical submission is about loving others ahead of oneself, Matt. 22:39. Biblical submission is about being filled with the Spirit of God, Gal. 3:22-23. Biblical submission is about being like Jesus Christ in all our relationships.


The command here is for us to love others like Jesus loves them, to serve them like He served them, and to walk through this life submitted to the will of the Father just as He did. Walking in submission is about being like Jesus!


By the way, our willingness to submit is a window into our heart. If we yield to His command to submit to one another it shows that we love Him and His will more than we love self.


  I.  How Submission Is Demanded



•  The next phrase in our verse is “one to another.” Obviously, the Lord is referring to our submission to other members of the family of God, but I think it goes far beyond that. Let’s explore this phrase for a moment.


One key to what the Lord is saying here is found in the verses that follow. Specifically, it refers to what Paul says in Eph. 5:22-6:9. In those verses, Paul tells us that there is to be submission in several areas of life. By the way, the submission speaks about is “mutual submission.” Everyone is expected to submit to everyone else.


•  Eph. 5:22-32 refers to the relationship between husbands and wives. In marriage there is the common idea that wives are to be in submission to the husbands. That is not a stretch, because that is what the Bible clearly teaches, Eph. 5:22-24.


However, before God tells wives to submit to their husbands, He tells both mates to be in submission to the other. This is not a contradiction. God has vested leadership in the home to the husband. The man is the spiritual leader in the home.


Far too many men take the submission of the wife to mean that they can throw around their weight in the home. They try to overrule their wives by demanding that they submit. They act like tyrants in the home. The wife can’t make a decision unless the husband approves it. The wife can’t spend money unless the husband approves it. The wife can’t do this or that unless the husband approves it. What a tragedy!


Only a fool acts that way in his relationship with his spouse. The man is to lead, not from a position of authority, but from a position of love, Eph. 5:25. The fact is, men, you can’t love your wife unless you are submitted to her as her servant. You can’t love her like Jesus loved the church unless you are willing to humble yourself and give yourself for her good.


Men seem to forget that they are to be the spiritual leader in that home. They are to do everything they can to see that their wife and children have every opportunity to become the people God saved them to be. He is to help them grow in the Lord. He is to help them develop their spiritual gifts for the glory of God. If they are lost, he is to help them come to meet Jesus as their Savior. If you are the man of the house, you are to be the servant of your family. You are to be Christ to them. Not in the sense that you can save them, but in the sense that you love them more than anything, and you long to see them become everything God desires them to be.


I have been hard on the men, haven’t I? The fact is, submission is a two way street. Submission in the marriage is to be mutual. Husbands are to submit to God and to their wives. Wives are to submit to God and their husbands. That is the recipe for a successful marriage. We will explore these things in greater details in coming weeks.


•  Ephesians 6:1-4 speaks about relationship between parents and children. There is to be mutual submission in that relationship as well. Children are to submit to the headship of the parents in the home. They are to honor their parents. They are to obey their parents. Their submission to their parents honors the Lord and brings His blessings into their lives.


Before Paul moves away from the parent-child relationship, he speaks to fathers. The fathers are commanded to raise their children with grace. They are not to dominate their children with ruthless power. They are raise them with a Christlike spirit. They are to help them to reach their fullest potential in Jesus Christ. If the commands in these verses are to be carried out, there nut be mutual submission. Children have to submit to the authority of the parents. Parents are to serve their children by loving them and by patiently guiding them in the ways of God.


•  Ephesians 6:5-9 deals with the relationship between master and slave. The modern comparison would be to the relationship between employer and employee. In that relationship there must also be mutual submission. The employee is to yield to the demands of his master. He is to do what he is told and give his employer a good days work. The employer is to respect those who work for him. He is to consider their needs and treat them fairly without favoritism.


If this relationship is to work in a fashion that glorifies the Lord, there must be mutual submission as both employer and employee work together to accomplish the will of God in this world. Of course, Paul is writing here to believers. Unfortunately, not every employer or employee is saved. If you find yourself either working for or employing a lost person, you are not responsible for how they act. You are only responsible for you. In that situation, you are to be Christlike and submissive; that is His command to you!


•  What Paul is commanding here is nothing short of amazing. In that culture, it was common for women, children and slaves to submit to those in authority over them. Women had few rights. Children and slaves had none. Men dominated the culture. They were the law. They were the power. They were the authorities.


Christianity came along and changed the whole dynamic of ancient society. Man, woman, children, and slaves were placed on the same level. God commands every person in the family of God to submit to every other person in the family of God. We are commanded to love God supremely, and we are to place others ahead of self: all the time, and in every situation. That is how the Bible describes the kind of submission God is looking for.


The question is, is that kind of submission found in your life? Or, of there room for improvement? Let’s search our hearts and get it right for the glory of God.


  I.  How Submission Is Demanded

 II.  How Submission Is Described



•  The final phrase in this verse says “in the fear of God.” What does it mean to fear God? The word “fear” translates the Greek word “foboί”. We get our word “phobia” from this word. It often refers to “alarm, terror, and fear.” However, this word has a secondary meaning. It can be used to refer to “reverence.” That is Paul’s intention here.


The word here speaks of a holy reverence for God. It speaks of a reverence for God that respects Him above all other authorities. This reverence to God manifests itself in total obedience to Him and to His will for our lives.


•  When we “fear God,” we will be in submission to Him. When we are submitted to Him, we will have no problem submitting to the other authority figures in the home, in society, on the job, or in the church. When we are submitted to God, we will practice mutual submission to our spouses, our parents, our children, our bosses, our employees, and others.


Our submission to God is not rooted in our fear of Him as a cruel tyrant. We don’t fear Him because we think He might judge us and condemn us for our shortcomings. Our fear of God and our submission to Him is rooted in our love for Him. He loved us and gave Himself for us to redeem us from sin, and to adopt us into His family. He is our Father. Because He is our Father, we reverence Him. Because we reverence Him, we submit to Him and to His authority over us.


This means that our submission to others begins with our submission to God. Our submission to others is a window into our relationship with Him. When we are submitted to the Lord, we will have no trouble submitting to others.


•  So, our submission, in all the relationships of our life, is a direct result of our love for, and fear of, Almighty God. When He holds the proper place in our lives, others will too.


Conc: Submission. That is a concept we hear too little about. It is a concept we rarely see lived out in our world. Yet, it is the will of God for everyone of His children. I challenge you to take the command of verse 21 to heart and get about the business of “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”


If you are like me, you some times struggle in this area. It isn’t always easy to yield to the rights of others. It isn’t always easy to put others aead of self. Yet, it is what we are commanded to do.


Let me hasten to say that this does not mean that you are to be a doormat. You are not to allow others to walk all over you, to trample you underfoot, to take advantage of you, or to abuse you. There are times when you have to stand up for yourself.


This verse is simply teaching us that in our relationships with others, we are to strive to be Christlike all the time. Regardless o how they treat us, we are to treat them with respect. We are view every relationship as an opportunity to serve the Lord, but serving others.


Need to talk to God about this matter? Need help in the arena of submission? Bring that need to Him and let Him help you.


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