Am I a bigot? Apparently one of my readers thinks so. This is my answer to the second part of Tom’s criticism from. My first response to Tom is here. Tom suggested that I was a bigot because of my views on submission in Ephesians 5. In this article, I will define Christian “submitting one to another” which is far different than obedience and gender or class subordination.
Submitting to one another – first the criticism
Below is another portion of Tom’s criticism to me and my answer will follow.
Third the “submitting one to another” is defined by the rest of the passage, and the rest of the New Testament. Please remember that parents/children and masters/servants are included in this passage. In these relationships we also find authority/obedience. The “mutual submission” works according to the various relationships God has ordained. Parents “submit” to their children’s needs by raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Children submit to the parents by obedience. Servants “submit” to their masters by offering them not only an outward obedience, but also obedience that is from the heart. And 1 Peter shows us that the submission to authority is especially important when the authority is “froward”, harsh, or unreasonable– “NKJ 1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” Not a very American concept, but there it is–it is suffering patiently under unjust authority that really brings reward. We Americans are so lusting after having no authority! Yet, look where reward in the Kingdom comes–from patient suffering under unjust authority! Perhaps we should consider the Scripture, “and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection”, and again, “if we suffer, we shall also reign with him”.
Thus, to return to Eph 5, the “mutual submission” applies to both the authoritative and submissive roles of the various relationship. Now, as to the remark about letting the words of Paul be over those of Jesus–this demonstrates unbelief in the Scriptures, for it is written in 1 Corinthians 14: “If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write are the commandments of the Lord”. Paul got none of his teachings from men, as we are taught in Galatians–he got it straight from Jesus. In Thessalonians, it is written, “if any man obey not our word in this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him”. When you read the Epistles, you ARE reading Jesus’ words!
When it comes to the teaching of submission and the Lord Jesus, please note that the one thing Jesus learned was obedience, as it says in Hebrews. Note also that Jesus was subject to his earthly parents: NKJ Luke 2:51 “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them”. This was part of perfectly fulfilling the Law of Moses. But the command is repeated in Eph 5, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord”. So Jesus showed perfect obedience to his head, the Father, as well as to the man and woman who were his earthly parents. The Church is obedient to Christ, and so (as Ephesians so plainly says) ought the wives be to their husbands. Again, I strongly urge you to do a heart check in your attitude toward men (and women) who stand for what the Scriptures say about the authority of males in the family and in the Church. (From Tom)
“Submitting to one another” – the grammar
The definition for “submitting to one another” comes first and foremost from the grammar. However, before we define the term, we need to note that it is not found in Ephesians 5:22. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to omit the verb in Ephesians 5:22 so that we are forced to go back to verse 21. I detailed the absence of the verb here. Now on to Ephesians 5:21 where the term is listed.
Ephesians 5:21 (NASB) and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
“To one another” is a reciprocal pronoun. See the Greek grammar below:
The reciprocal pronoun means to express an interchange amongst two or more entities:
Interchange is an alternation or changing places between the entities. So, whatever submit means, it applies to both parties.
Paul also used two words that were related. Paul used the term “serve” interchangeably with “submit”. In Galatians 5:13 Paul again uses the reciprocal pronoun “one another” with service/subjection.
Mark Holmes in his Bible commentary on Ephesians connects Galatians 5:13 with Ephesians 5:21. Holmes writes: (emphasis is mine.)
Mutual submission is an important reality for the church if it is to function as it should. Jesus taught us both by example and word that the path toward greatness in the Kingdom is by becoming a servant to the least (see John 13:4–17; Matthew 20:26–28). Paul speaks of submission in his earlier letter to the Galatians by commanding, “Serve one another in love” (5:13). First Peter 5:5 commands young men to be submissive to those who are older, and commands everyone else to exercise humility toward one another because God opposes those who are proud, but extends His grace to the humble. Holmes, M. A. (1997). Ephesians: a Bible commentary in the Wesleyan tradition (p. 170). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
Paul practiced what he preached
Paul’s writing has dozens of examples of the reciprocal “one another,” and Paul makes it clear that even an apostle is not exempt from serving all.
1 Corinthians 9:19 (NASB) For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.
Service/submission involves self-sacrifice for the good of another person. In the context of Ephesians 5, Jesus is shown to be our example. In verse 1, we are told to be “imitators” of God. How do we imitate God? Verse 2 tells us to walk in love as Christ loved. Verse 2 also tell us that Jesus, as our example, sacrificed Himself. Service/submission is about walking in love for one another. Service/submission is also about walking as children of Light (verse 8). The fruit of Light is goodness, righteousness, and truth. So our service/submission is about goodness, righteousness, and truth. This is emphasized by Paul when he defines submission “as to the Lord” in verse 22. Service/submission is defined as what is “pleasing to the Lord” in verse 10. In verse 15, service/submission is defined as wisdom, and in verse 17 it is part of understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Defining submission–giving up our own self-interest
In verse 18, Paul commands Christians to be “filled with the Spirit”. Paul further defines who service/submission is given to. Christians are to “speak to one another” with spiritual-based words through psalms, hymns, and songs. Again, the reciprocal is “one another” so that speaking to one another is not one-sided, but mutually beneficial, an interchange of one to another. Paul brings in the fear of Christ in verse 21 when he says we are to be subject one to another.
Joseph Beet describes submission as giving up our own self-interest:
Knowing that Jesus gave Himself up for us, we are to humble ourselves to give up our own self interest to lift up our brethren. We are to speak to one another things that lift up Jesus for the benefit of all. Speaking to yourselves etc.: very close parallel to Col 3:16 Beet, J. A. (1999). Beet’s Commentaries: Ephesians (electronic ed., Eph 5:19). Albany, OR: Ages Software.
Notice that Beet says the Ephesians passage (Eph 5:17-21 is one long sentence) is very close to Col. 3:16. Colossians 3:16 connects together this speaking with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another.
Colossians 3:16 (NASB) Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
The teaching is reciprocal and it fulfills both having the fear of Christ (Eph 5:21), and allowing the word of Christ to richly dwell in you (Col 3:16).
Defining submission–sacrificial service
According to Paul, mutual submission comes from being filled with the Spirit and the result is teaching and admonishing. It also involves self-sacrificial love and being an imitator of God (Eph 5:1). Can parents/children and masters/servants fit into Paul’s definition of service/submission? Of course! All can fulfill the call of Christ to sacrificial service. Jesus said if you want to be great, be a servant. And He showed us how to do that. While none of the disciples would humble themselves to wash the dirty, stinky feet of the disciples, Jesus fitted himself with a servant’s towel and He washed their feet. Mutual service/submission is a Christian action that fulfills the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 (NASB) Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
The Bible speaks often of the mandate to love one another. Wives are told by Peter that being submissive to their husbands may win them over to Christ without a word.
1 Peter 3:1 (NASB) In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
Romans 13:8 (NASB) Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Submission is not a subordinate “role”
Thus, to return to Eph 5, the “mutual submission” applies to both the authoritative and submissive roles of the various relationship.
What is clear is that mutual submission is reciprocal – going in both directions. In the body of Christ, there are no authoritative and submissive “roles”. There are just “Christians” who submit to love and serve each other in the fear of Christ.
As far as the 1 Corinthians 14 passage, Paul did get his words from Jesus. Paul used his words to aptly refute the disrespectful silencing of women. Look at my posts on 1 Corinthians 14 to see how the exact grammar refutes the view that Paul contradicted himself within the space of one chapter. You can’t have Paul saying that everyone may speak in the assembly and then a few verses later silence half of the congregation. The silencing of women is foreign to the Scripture and it is foreign to Paul if you examine the grammar of Paul. Paul is hard to understand, but he can be understood without contradiction if one understands what Paul wrote in the context and with Paul’s inspired grammar.
Submission is not obedience and it cannot be demanded
This was part of perfectly fulfilling the Law of Moses. But the command is repeated in Eph 5, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord”. So Jesus showed perfect obedience to his head, the Father, as well as to the man and woman who were his earthly parents. The Church is obedient to Christ, and so (as Ephesians so plainly says) ought the wives be to their husbands.
The words to children are in chapter 6 and a different word is used for children without a reciprocal pronoun. The highly acclaimed BDAG lexicon lists this meaning for Ephesians 6:1 –
① to follow instructions, obey, follow, be subject to w. gen. of pers. (Hdt. 3, 101 al.; so predom. in pap and LXX; TestGad 8:3) B 9:1 (Ps 17:45 v.l.; the text has μοι). W. dat. of pers. (Thu., Aristoph. et al.; Philo, Mos. 1, 156; Jos., Ant. 13, 275; TestJud 1:4; 18:6 θεῷ; Ath. 15:2 αὐτῷ [God]; Iren. 3, 21, 2 [Harv. II 113, 2]; in pap and LXX the dat. is less freq. than the gen. B-D-F §173, 3; 187, 6; s. Rob. 507; 634): parents Eph 6:1; Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 1028). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Paul states that a wife is to respect her husband (Eph 5:33) but he does not tell the wife in Ephesians 5 to “obey” her husband. If you conflate obedience with submission, you have completely lost the message of Christian humility that produces unselfish service and agape love. Obedience is not the same as service/submission. Obedience is not reciprocal; Christian submission is. Obedience is not the meaning in Ephesians 5:21. The BDAG lexicon lists this meaning for the sumission of wives:
Of submission in the sense of voluntary yielding in love 1 Cor 16:16; Eph 5:21; Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 1042). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
In this last section of Tom’s response, he writes:
Again, I strongly urge you to do a heart check in your attitude toward men (and women) who stand for what the Scriptures say about the authority of males in the family and in the Church.
I would remind Tom that he cannot read my heart. My desire is to serve the body of Christ to remind them of the importance of reading the Bible in context, paying attention to the inspired grammar, and asking the hard questions to find out what the hard passages mean without ending up with a contradiction. Scripture never tells males to take authority over their wives. Tom and many others read that into the passage. Neither does the Bible say that only men have authority over the children. Scripture also never states that women are not allowed to teach the truth of the gospel. Scripture does not restrict the gifts that God has given women meant for the benefit of the entire body of Christ. These false ideas need to be challenged because scriptural authority and scriptural truth are so important.
What “submission one to another” means
Christian “submission one to another” means sacrificial service with humility and love in a reciprocal manner. Practicing Christian submission allows a Christian to give unselfish service to another and to humbly submit to receive service back. God has chosen to knit the body of Christ together in love with each member supplying for the needs of the body in Christian service.
There will be two more posts to complete my response to the rest of the criticism I received on Ephesians 5:21, 22 from Tom.
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