Filled with the Spirit: Submitting to One Another
August 18, 2019
Once upon a time, before you got up this morning, before you or your parents were even born, once upon a time, before Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, once upon a time, before Abraham looked toward heaven to number the stars, God created the heavens and the earth.
But before God created the heavens and the earth, as if there actually was such a thing as “before” or “was,” God made a covenant of redemption. Before the beginning of anything, God freely willed to create and redeem a people unto himself. God freely willed to create and redeem you.
When this covenant of redemption happened, an utterly profound and mysterious thing happened. The three persons of the one Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, the three persons of the one Triune God who were eternally equal in power and in glory, took on different roles to accomplish the covenant of redemption. The Father willed to send the Son. The Son willed to be sent. The Father and Son willed to give the Spirit. The Spirit willed to be given. We know this because God revealed it to us in Scripture.
This is wonderful and excellent and marvelous and mind-blowing. The second person of the one Triune God submitted himself to the first person of the one Triune God in the covenant of redemption. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ submitted himself to God the Father for our salvation.
And Jesus’ salvation was glorious. The second person of the Triune God subjected himself to the law - to his law that we were supposed to obey. The lawgiver became the lawkeeper. The test maker became the test taker. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law and then credited us with his righteousness so that we could be saved. Thus in Luke 2:51 we see Jesus obey the fifth commandment and actually honor his earthly parents Joseph and Mary and be submissive to them. Jesus lived the life that we were supposed to live. This is amazing. This is our humble King.
Jesus’ salvation was glorious. The second person of the Triune God took on human nature and subjected himself to the penalty of sin that is death. According to Philippians 2:5-8, though Jesus was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The Lion of Judah was also The Lamb that would be slain. Jesus did not just live the life that we were supposed to live. He also died the death that we were supposed to die. This is amazing. This is our humble King.
Therefore, as a result of all of this, all of his salvation, Jesus has authority (Jude 1:25). He has full and ultimate power. He has sovereign right over all things. All command and control belongs to him. He is the supreme ruler of the universe.
Jesus has authority. God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
Jesus has authority. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable…. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures throughout all generations…. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down…. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. Bless his holy name forever and ever (Psalm 145).
Jesus has authority. God seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:21-23).
Brothers and sisters, I have taken a good amount of time in this sermon to exalt our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And it was for a good reason. If you want to be a person who is filled in the Spirit, if you want to submit to one another, then know that it starts with Jesus. It begins with a confession of his authority. It begins with a reverence for Christ. Our King is truly worthy of our reverence and awe and fear and trembling. And any kind of submission to one another begins and ends with our submission to our glorious King.
If submission happens without reverence for Christ, then it just gets all warped and weird. A lot of people, even people who believe in Jesus, have a difficult time with the idea of “submitting to one another.” It can have a negative and even offensive connotation, carrying with it the baggage of oppression, tyranny, or the infringement of personal freedom. We live in a postmodern culture where authority is now instinctively met with suspicion and distrust. Many people, even people who believe in Jesus, are against the idea of “submitting to one another.”
This is sad and unfortunate. It’s sad and unfortunate because submission is actually a beautiful thing. It is beautiful when we submit to Christ. It is beautiful when we submit to one another. It is beautiful to have a life that is filled with the Spirit.
When there is submission, what do we see? According to the Bible, this is what we see. We see respectful and pure conduct that comes from a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:1-6). We see obedience (Hebrews 13:17). When there is submission, we see people who are ready for every good work, people who speak evil of no one, people who avoid quarreling and are not argumentative, and people who are well-pleasing and show perfect courtesy (Titus 2:9; 3:1-2). We see honor (Romans 13:7). We see humility (1 Peter 5:5).
This is what our Lord Jesus Christ wants from us. And this is what the Holy Spirit is creating in our lives.
But we need to be clear about three things.
First, this verse, Ephesians 5:21, is not saying that we need to submit to everyone about everything all the time. Rather, it’s about our need to submit in certain relationships. If you look at what follows today’s text, you’ll notice that Paul details three key relationships where submission ought to happen beautifully: in the relationship of a husband and wife, in the relationships of parents and children, and in the relationships of masters and servants. There are other relational contexts where submission ought to happen - contexts such at the civic government, the workplace, and of course, the church - but Paul is focusing primarily on home and family life. It is important to point this out because Ephesians 5:21 is not talking about how we need to be nice to everyone about everything all the time. It is true that we ought to do so in general. But Ephesians 5:21 is unique. It is not talking about loving or serving others in general. It is talking about submitting to one another in specific relationships where real and actual authority exists.
The second thing that we need to be clear about is this. Authority and submission is not about inequality. The three persons of the one Triune God - God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit - did indeed take on different roles to accomplish the covenant of redemption. But the three persons of the one Triune God remained equal in power and in glory. In the same way, while there may be authority and submission in, for example, the marriage relationship, husbands and wives are equal in dignity and value as image bearers of God. And even more so, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
The third and final thing that we need to be clear about is this. Authority and submission is not easy. It is so hard to submit to one another. And it is so hard to lead and serve one another with authority. We struggle with sin on both sides of authority and submission. We are naturally self-centered. And instead of there being much humility, there is much pride. It is not pleasant to die to ourselves and live for Jesus. It is hard to spell the word “joy” and complete it correctly (Philippians 2:2). J - Jesus first. O - others second. Y - yourself last. Authority and submission is not easy.
So we need to look to Jesus. Thank God that he did not merely say, “Submit to one another.” No. Instead, our God said, “Submit to one another… out of reverence for Christ.” Dear church, Jesus is your Savior. And Jesus is your Lord. Remember that as you wait for his return. Remember the covenant of redemption. Remember Jesus’ life and death and humility. Remember his authority. Remember that our King is truly worthy of our reverence and awe and fear and trembling. And remember that any kind of submission to one another begins and ends with our submission to our glorious King.