Bible Study Notes:

Submission to Authority and Each Other
Ephesians 5:21-24

These notes are from a transcript of the postings during Bible Study on Thursday Nights at 8 PM at Bible Study Chat at
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Praise the Lord. We're getting read to study a topic that is a bad word for some - submission. The Lord has really been speaking to my spirit about this - and I believe what He has given me will bless us all!

Let's pray! Father God, thank you for your Word. Give us supernatural understanding of it tonight we pray!

satan we bind you in Jesus name, command you to shut up and get out in Jesus Name.

Holy Spirit, we invite you to be our teacher and bring all things to our remembrance. AMEN

I think submission is probably one of the things I've struggled with the most, especially in marriage and at work. And it's taken me a long time to BEGIN to understand it. So what I'm going to do first is lay a foundation, which may take a while.

Now the verse we're on in Ephesians is 5:21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" and the verses following it up until 6:9 tell how to walk it out. That's what I like about the way Paul thinks. He gives us a principle, and then tells us how to walk it out.

Christians in the US are like scattered orphans, disconnected from their family and their Father. Many are rebellious, lonely, fearful, cringing from community and cowering in loneliness before the evil one.

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Koinonia is the Greek word for community. It means fellowship, submitting to one another and to Christ, the communion of believers and the communion ritual (Lord's Supper, Eucharist). It is acknowledgement and discernment of Christ's Body. It is concern for the needs of our brothers and sisters, focusing on others and not self. The word koinonia is also used for the offering that the gentile believers gathered for their suffering brethren in Jerusalem. And it is recognition of and submission to godly authority.

Firecracker.gif (5419 bytes) America was founded on rebellion against authority and our national icons are the rebel, the loner, and the underdog. We are proud of the rebellion that birthed our nation, and look to Independence Day as one of the defining moments of our identity. Our culture, with emphasis on spectator sports, individual entertainment and self-gratification, breeds isolation, selfishness, and disregard for the sanctity of human life.

God is a God of order and not confusion. Therefore He has established an order in government, the Church and family life.

G.gif (9331 bytes) Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Cowgirl † - But prayer changes things and this is God's command that we do this if we pray for our Govt. and they receive Christ won't things be better.

Lisa - What a blessing it would be to have Christians in Power !!

This is something that under the current administration, we have to take by faith, I agree. But remember who was the government when Paul wrote this - the Romans - some of the most hated conquerors the world has known. AND it was NOT a democracy for the oppressed people, such as the Jews and early Christians. AND that government imprisoned Paul when he wrote this! AND Paul was soon to be executed by that government and he knew it when he wrote this verse.

And we are not only to submit to the governing authorities, but pray for them:

1 Timothy 2: 1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

I Corinthians 14:33a, 40 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace... everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

This order is established not to oppress us, or to make us unhappy, but to give us peace. If we then find our place in this godly order and fulfill what God has called us to do, we will live in peace and happiness. This is NOT what the world will tell you. The world encourages us to be unhappy, discontented and competitive, ever striving to make more money and get into a higher station in life.

Cowgirl † - Sometimes you have to go on faith and not on feelings.

James 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

This discontent and continual striving for more causes disorder, in our bodies, in the family, in the community and in the Church. Of course, this is satan's plan. He has come to steal, kill and destroy us, and he does NOT play fair. Any way he can keep a Christian from being victorious, he will do it without reservation or conscience.

Jesus said in John 10:10: The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Jesus is our example in all things. He came to die for our sins and did nothing out of a competitive spirit, selfish ambition, or a feeling that He was better than we were. But He had the spirit of humility that said to God, "Not my will, but thine be done." He was looking out for our interests - what would benefit us no matter what it cost Him.

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Basically God is a God of order and not confusion, and has set an order in the government, church and family. In the godly order of things, Jesus reigned with God in Heaven. And He had the entire universe at His command. But He did not grasp at His equality with God, He did not try to hold on to His superiority, but He MADE Himself nothing. He gave up His position of authority, and took on the nature of a slave - in total submission, and was obedient even to death on the cross.

pointleader - Ok - so to whom do we submit - From what I know submission means - to come under the protection of.

Wisduma - OT, speaking of selfish ambition--I have heard that old saying that true inner joy comes when you put J-esus first O-thers next and Y-ourself last--notice the position of oneself--not always so easy to do though.

Philippians 2:5-8 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! JesusCross.gif (5181 bytes)

Submission has been one of my greatest struggles. Submission is difficult because our flesh wants to reign supreme. Let's be honest, no one likes to be "bossed around". We all want to feel like we are in control of our lives. But when we meditate on Christ's submission, when we realize that the King of the Universe became a lowly slave, and was obedient to death, then we can begin to be ready to become willing to submit to God's plan and order.

IIH-WTSnow - OldTimer, in relation to your statement of being bossed around, I will quote Ephesians 5:26 and 27... "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil

Notice I said - BEGIN to be ready to become willing to submit! It's a learning process and God gives us plenty of chances to BEGIN! Many people have come to the Church, failed to submit to the authorities therein appointed, gotten angry and left, criticizing loudly everything that the church stands for. Others have taken it upon themselves to harass the flock, test it with some challenge or the other, and generally cause trouble, and then are offended when the authorities check their hand.

Part of it is our culture's fault - we are not taught how to live in community. Part of it is the Church's fault - because some have tried to make Christianity so appealing to the flesh, they've left out the submission part.

Pointleader - The way I see it is if we submit to Christ - we come under the protection of His blood and the power of His Name!

God is a God of order and not confusion. He created the Church in Christ Jesus to be called OUT of the world and INTO fellowship, believer with believer. He also set an order in the Church of leadership: apostles, pastors, prophets, teachers, etc. to guide and equip the saints. To be a Christian is not only to accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but also to accept the authority of leaders He has appointed over us. Pastor.gif (6729 bytes)

Wisduma - OT-especially hard for women to be submissive to their husbands in this day and age when we are taught especially to be so strong and powerful--submission to our husbands is definitely not something to be proud of in that sense. Most women I know think that women being submissive to their husbands is just ridiculous. Of course--submission is biblical in many ways.

Ephesians 4:11-32 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

No church leader, pastor, teacher, etc. is perfect, but those in authority have been tested BY THE LORD, and found to be useful in His Kingdom. They have been placed in the Church to help you grow. Since the Lord has called you to Him, when you join a church, submit to the authorities He has placed there in love.

The Lord tests those that He places in authority, mainly from the "school of hard knocks and bumps". God is interested most of all in willing, submitted hearts rather than degrees, although it doesn't ever hurt to gain knowledge about God and His Word. My definition of "be useful" in the kingdom includes witnessing to the unbeliever and encouraging and supporting the believer.

Now authority in the Church doesn't mean that our leaders have absolute power over us and can use us at their will. This wasn't what Jesus taught and practiced. It is not authority in the sense of to have power over (like a politician or bully) but authority in the sense of caring for as a shepherd, being a spiritual covering for, and having concern over. Even as being a guard or guardian for, as the Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:1-7: SmallGroup.gif (6105 bytes)

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

NOT lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples ... This is the goal that our leaders are aiming for.

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Here are two important keys to submission - one is to have the same attitude as Christ (Philippians 2) and the second is here - Humble yourselves under God's mighty hand.

Sheperd.gif (19425 bytes) It would be silly, if not dangerous, for a sheep to revolt against the care of his loving shepherd. After all, the shepherd provides food, rest, and protection for the flock. We are the sheep of Jesus' pasture and we need to submit to the loving guardianship of the shepherds He places over us.

Hebrews 13:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Of course that brings up a question: what if the spiritual authority you are under is not living for God? What if he/she is found to be a false shepherd, a messenger of satan, corrupt in some way?

Or what if your spiritual authority is someone you don't like, or is not as intelligent as you, or you think makes bad decisions? How do you handle that situation?

First of all, be obedient to God. A godly authority will not ask you to do anything that contradicts God's Word. If he/she does, then maybe it's time you found another church!

Wisduma - We are to obey God. Remember the passage that says have we now become pleasers of men and not God--there is a fine line between being obedient to men and being men pleasers.

Now this doesn't mean that every time you have a disagreement about a doctrine or interpretation, you should pack up and leave! I'm talking about something major, like asking you to cheat, steal, commit a sexual sin, etc.

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Second of all, note that the writer of Hebrews states that leaders are "men who must give an account". An account of what and to whom? Leaders are themselves under the authority of the Lord and must please Him. They must give an accounting of how they handle their responsibilities given by God. If they are in error, or fail, or make bad decisions, it is not YOUR responsibility to correct them. They are subject to discipline by God and by those God has appointed as authorities above them.

Pointleader - I believe that as you submit your spirit to the Holy Spirit and seek wise council He will speak to you and show you the way which will match with His word

Cowgirl † - Mike says we don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Take what's good and hide it in your heart, let the other stuff go. God will help you discern the truth from his word.

AMEN Mike! And don't forget, it might be YOU that needs the changing! If you find yourself in a difficult situation because of a leader's attitude or decision, go to God first in prayer. It is a major mistake to gossip and gripe about him/her. Seek godly counsel and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Immerse yourself in the Word. Be sure you are not acting out of bitterness or spite if you feel you must leave the situation.

1 Peter 2:17-"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."

There is such a lack of respect in our society! It never hurts to be polite and kind does it? Especially on the road. Road rage kills.

Manager.gif (3725 bytes) Now the respect that is due your leaders is a respect for their POSITION of authority, regardless of whether you like them or not, whether you agree with them or not, or whether they make bad decisions or not. It's the same as a working situation. You may not like your supervisor, or agree with him/her, or like their decisions. But if you want to keep your job, you do what they tell you (unless, of course, it is contrary to God's Word).

Believe me, the Lord has given me opportunity after opportunity to learn this lesson. Finally, I began to see that the problems I was having at work was lack of respect for the supervisor's POSITION, and once I realized that, work became easier.

However, you can respectfully and tactfully voice your opinion. If it is rejected, then you have no choice but to obey, unless it violates God's Word. Why do I say this? Because God is trying to teach you a lesson about authority and submission that will have eternal consequences. If you are faithful to fulfill your position, to serve others as if they were the Lord Himself, you will have learned something that will translate into the spiritual and give you great victory in life.

Pointleader - I mean - its seems bigger than respect - respect is something earned and not automatically demanded - isn't it? I think that people don't know how to earn respect these days because of all the compromise in the world

Speaker.gif (4365 bytes) According to the Bible PL, I believe that respect is DUE to a person's position - kind of different from what we normally think.

Mare - It is so hard to respect a person in authority sometimes, especially when they are non-Christian and have worldly values.

Mare that is correct and we've all struggled with that. But it always helped me to remember that I was really working for the Lord, and sought to please Him above all. Also remember we are to be witnesses of Christ's love, and your dutiful respect might win someone without a word!

Mare - What if we have to lie because we are told to do so on the job?

redhead - I know...where do you draw the line?

These are tough questions, and there are no easy answers! But remember that God allows us to be put in these situations so that we can learn and grow. Mare, I would respectfully decline to do so, and face the possible consequences of being terminated. Redhead, that is between you and the Lord, dear. I can tell you what I'd do, but you need to ask God's wisdom when situations like this come up.

Pointleader - OT - so if you "tactfully don't want to do something" are you still respecting that company's policy?

PL, well when you're hired, you are usually told what company policy is. If you feel it betrays your conscience, you should tell them at the time. If it comes up later, and you weren't aware of it when you began the job, you need to make an appointment with your supervisor and discuss why you cannot follow that policy.

The job is not your source, God is. If you honor God by following His Word, EVEN IF IT COSTS YOU THE JOB, He will in turn honor you with something better, and will always supply your needs.

OK, to summarize what we've gone over briefly. God is a God of order and has placed an order in the government, church and family that we are to follow to be productive and happy in life and in the life to come.

Now our submission to God is total - we are to humble ourselves under His mighty hand in obedience. And we are to be obedient to the governing authorities He has appointed over us - in the secular world as well as the Church - as long as it doesn't conflict with the Word of God.

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Up until now, we've discussed a ruler/subject type of submission. Now we are going to talk about a different sort of submission. In Ephesians 5:21 we're talking about submitting to one another.

Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:19-20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Last time we went over what these verses meant, and I repeat them so you can refer to them. To fully understand what this type of submission entails, you need to understand a little about Greek grammar. The command "be filled with the Spirit" from verse 18 is followed in the Greek by a series of participles ("ing" form of the verb) that explains what being filled with the Spirit entails. Speaking with psalms…, singing, making melody (v. 19), giving thanks (v. 20), and submitting (5:21-6:9).

So in Greek those three verses are really one big sentence: Be filled with the Spirit ... speaking...singing... making thanks ...submitting. All are part of the same thought.

The enabling for all these tasks comes from the Spirit. Most of us don't have a great deal of problems speaking, singing, and making melody because most of us love music. Sometimes we have problems giving thanks when things are rough. But submitting, now that's hard for most of us. Just remember it is the SPIRIT that gives us the ability to do all these things. And remember, too, that this is part of putting on the NEW SELF in Christ Jesus as discussed in chapter 4.

Greek is a much more complex language than English, and it is difficult to translate exactly what Paul meant without some explanation. Greek verbs have three forms: active, middle and passive. (English does not have a middle form) Understand that all three forms are expressed in Greek by the same root verb, but with different endings.

Wisduma - But even our very submitting has to come from the Spirit that lives in us. We cannot do this of ourselves.

So what you can say in ONE word in the Greek takes a whole sentence in English - I'll give you an example.

For example: An active verb would be something like: OldTimer threw the ball. The subject of the sentence (OldTimer) did the acting (threw the ball). A passive verb: The ball was thrown by OldTimer. The subject of the sentence (the ball) was being acted upon (thrown) by the object (OldTimer). In the middle form, the subject is both the one acting and the one being acted upon: OldTimer taught herself to throw the ball.

So why did I explain all that? So we could understand what the form of the verb "submit" or "be subject to" here means. "Submit to one another" here and in verse 22 is in the middle form. That means, "You voluntarily submit yourself". No one is forcing you to do it. No one is bullying you into it. You submit because you want to. It could be translated: "Voluntarily submitting yourselves to one another out of reverence to Christ".

Remember that the enabling or the ability to submit comes from being filled with the Spirit. The motivation for submission comes out of the reverence for Christ. The middle form of the verb stresses the mutuality and voluntary nature of submission.

PeopleLaw.gif (6632 bytes) Also notice when you submit to one another, there isn't a ruler/subject relationship - no one is "boss". This mutual submission carries with it an attitude of humility. Romans 12:3 says:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

It doesn't mean we think we are worms or doormats. We are citizens of Heaven, saints of God, and beloved by Christ. But it does mean that we are equal to the other Christians and a superior attitude is not allowed.

Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:4-5: Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Wisduma - In other words--having a humble spirit

Cowgirl † - In other words as you grow in Christ don't get a big head.

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"Each member belongs to all the others" - we need to remember that we ARE one body and ALL members are essential for the body to function.

Galatians 5:13 - You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

When we recognize that we are parts of one Body and show reverence for the Head of that Body (Christ), then serving one another in love will flow naturally.

In I Peter 5, it says "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another".

See what Paul is trying to say? This is not a ruler/subject submission where someone is "boss" and orders everyone else about. It is a subject/subject relationship, where we each look out for each other.

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Now the next passage, where it talks about wives and husbands, has given us a lot of grief. This passage has been used to abuse women, and Paul has been accused of being a woman hater because of this and other passages.

Wisduma - Okay Ot, but in the husband/wife relationship it is at times a ruler/subject type of submission just as Christ is head of the Church so is the Husband to be head of his household?

But the verb form for submit is STILL the MIDDLE form - so the same subject/subject type of submission is being requested. It is not a ruler/subject relationship.

Wisduma - But we're always taught that the wife is to be in submission to her husband but not the husband to be in submission to his wife???

Good question, Wisduma. I will try to explain it as best I can. Let me refer you also to What Paul Really Said About Women by John Temple Bristow for the full explanation.

Now Mr. Bristow knows Greek better than I do, but his thesis is basically that if we would read the passage in the original Greek we would understand exactly what Paul meant by his word choice. For example, using the middle form of to submit means that this is a voluntary submission. A better translation, he says, might be, "wives, be supportive of your husbands".

Wisduma - Okay, but are the husbands to be supportive of their wives in the sense of submission???

soldier.gif (13513 bytes) In the passages dealing with ruler/subject submission, the word for ruler is usually a form of archon - which DOES mean an authority you MUST submit to. Here we are told that the husband is the "head" of the wife - which in the Greek is kephale - the same word for your physical noggin. This word was NOT used for a ruler as archon was - in the sense of ruler/subject submission. It was often used in military terms as the leader of a mission - not the general - but the first into battle - known as pointleader.

So this is a loving submission, support and respect for the husband by the wife, voluntarily given because of love, not the kind of submission that can be commanded. Do you see the difference?

Cowgirl † - If your husband loves you like Christ Loves the church, then you shouldn't have any trouble submitting to your husband. Because it says for him to do that first. Doesn't it?

The week before we went on vacation, there was an article in the paper that the Southern Baptists have added a rule that wives must graciously submit to their husbands. Did you read it? The reporter wondered if Hillary (a United Methodist) would submit to Bill Clinton (who claims to be a Southern Baptist)! LOL Well, we won't go into that! But it is a topic that is in the news now, and it's important to understand it. It's curious that the paper did NOT report whether the Southern Baptists told the husbands what to do.

The Greek word for "submit" here is the middle form (hupotassomai) and is almost the same as the Greek word for love (agapao) in that both require being responsive to the needs of the other person. So again we see the mutuality of voluntarily submitting to one another, as in verse 21. So in a sense husbands and wives are to submit to each other, as in verse 21.

Now lets look at kephale for a minute, translated "head". If it is simply translated "head" it appears to suggest a position of authority over those under the head, where kephale describes a position of risk, being out in front, serving those who follow the head.

Cowgirl † - the husband is to be the head in a spiritual since. Meaning he is to make sure his family is spiritually being fed and lining up to God's word

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We often speak of the husband being the covering for the wife in spiritual sense; he goes ahead of her (and the family) into spiritual warfare, leading the charge so to speak. And he is also the head in the sense that he is responsible for his family as priest of the household.

Oh, if the men of our nation would take on this kind of headship! Not to be heavy handed rulers, but to grieve before God for the spiritual welfare of their families - to go forward into battle for their souls! This would revolutionize our world! Then, it would not be hard at all for wives to voluntarily submit, be supportive of and respectful of them!

Well, we barely touched on this passage - so next time we'll start here at verse 22. God bless all who've shared tonight.

Father help us to find our places of responsibility in your kingdom. Help us submit to the authorities you have placed over us for our peace. Help us to submit to them. And help us to submit to each other in love. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Praise the Lord - for His wisdom!

Thank You Father for being here with us and for guiding us in this meeting. Father be with each and everyone gathered here tonight, bless them and their families. Lord, we love you with all our hearts as we lift up those in need to supply those needs, Father Your will be done. Father, we accept the responsibility that You place in our hands for the coming week with gratitude. Thank you Father, in Jesus name. AMEN


Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice.

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