Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
This seems to me to be one of the most overlooked verses in the Bible. Why? The verse following, well known throughout Christendom and secular society, overshadows it. Verse 22, telling wives to submit to their husbands, has been both elevated to fulfill an agenda and used for sincere instruction towards obedience. But wielding this verse out of context misses the point.
Paul tends to teach by declaring a rule or principle and then giving some direction in particular circumstances. What’s the rule? Submit to one another. Who is that talking to? Everyone.
Worldly submission involves authority and demanding compliance or obedience. Biblical submission can involve authority as when we submit to God. But it also encompasses the idea of putting someone else before our own self-interest – voluntarily.
Biblical submission is beautiful because it is given freely. My fleshly nature wants to serve my own desire, but I am no longer a slave to the flesh and can choose to serve others instead. Why are we to submit? Because they are better than us or in authority over us? No. We submit out of reverence for Christ. So our submitting to one another is really a submission to Christ.
Submit to one another. We see verse 22, but it doesn't negate the prior verse. It just speaks to a circumstance. He is called to submit to her as well. One another is a limitless audience. I am to serve and put all others ahead of myself. Submit to one another. There is no Greek or Jew, no master or slave, no male or female.
Submission is so central to our walk with God that Paul associates it with keeping the most important commandment.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14
Maybe that’s why the deceiver gets us tangled up in the following verse on wives. He wants us to overlook Ephesians 5:21. Submit to one another. The church living in mutual submission would be a fierce light in our dark world. May my reverence for Christ free me to submit in grace and love to my brothers and sisters.
Is there someone you find it hard to submit to?