That was a very long intro into this topic of marriage and now I want to spend a few minutes circling back to the idea of submission. Submission might be a terribly negative word out in secular society, but for the Christian, submission is a positive thing. Jesus submits to God the Father. We, as the body of Christ, submit to the Head who is Christ. Submission is part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Submission comes with the territory. Even before we talk about wives submitting to otheir husbands in Eph 5:22, we need to back up a verse and read v21. Both men and women, both husbands and wives are to submit to one another. Why? Out of reverence for Christ. Out of an overwhelming sense of awe for who Christ is and what he has done in my life, I submit my life to Christ and I have the ability to submit before others. It’s important that we never lose sight of v21 when we talk about marriage.
Verse 21 is important also because it connects the preceding section starting in Eph 5:15 and ending in Eph 5:21 with the rest of chapter 5 and the first half of chapter 6. Verse 21 contains the participle “submitting.” There are actually 4 participles in this section. 1) Submitting. Then, v19 – 2) “addressing” one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. 3) Third, in the second half of v10 – “singing and making melody” to the Lord with your heart. 4) And lastly, v20 – “giving” thanks.
What do the participles “submitting,” “addressing one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs,” “singing and making melody” and “giving thanks” modify? These 4 participles modify the command found in v18–“be filled with the Spirit.” Do you see that?
The Spirit is what enables a believer to submit and to address one another in praise and to sing to the Lord and to give thanks. The Spirit comes initially into a person’s life when he or she encounters Christ and is born again. Blind eyes are opened up and we see the beauty of Christ and what he did on the cross for ME. We repent for the first time and chains are broken and cold, deadened hearts are breathed with new life and changed to hearts of flesh. Overwhelmed by gratitude, we lay down our lives at the feet of Jesus and surrender. We place our faith in Jesus and tell him I’ll do whatever you ask me to do and go wherever you tells me to go. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
But the filling of the Spirit is not a one-time decision. Christian life does not work unless you and I are continually filled with the Spirit moment by moment. Why do Christians stop addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? Why do we stop singing and making melody to the Lord with their heart? Why do we stop giving thanks? It’s because we are not filled with the Spirit. The Spirit was there before, but it’s gone, they are empty of the Spirit, or running on fumes of the Spirit. Barely hanging onto their salvation.
We need the Spirit most of all to submit before one another. Verse 21 doesn’t say out of fear of Christ, submit to Christ. That would be easy. Even the proudest person can submit before someone they deem greater. I know there are some Caltech collegiate athletes here. You might be the greatest basketball player at Caltech right now and so before everyone else, you are proud of your skills. But if Lebron James showed up at the Caltech gym, you would clearly submit under King James and say, you’re better. Before God, we can all submit. Even the proudest person can submit before the God who spoke the universe into being. But the verse doesn’t say submit before Christ. It says, submit before one another.
It’s much harder to submit before flawed sinners than it is to submit to a perfect God. Our relationships remind us of our desperate need to be filled by the Spirit. Chapter 5 and the first half of chapter 6 of Ephesians is connected because Paul gives various examples of relationships where each party involved in the relationship is in desperate need of the Holy Spirit for the relationship to work. The Holy Spirit is like oil in a car engine. The moving parts of the engine create such friction that without oil, you will destroy the engine.
Without the Spirit, families will be destroyed. Let’s start with children and parents. Eph 6:1-4 shows both sides needing the Spirit. Children need to be filled with the Spirit in order to honor their parents continously. And parents need the Spirit so that they don’t provoke their children to anger. When our kids do something wrong, it’s easy to blow up and discipline our kids harshly. Godly parenting is a spiritual activity. We need the Spirit’s help. Notice that Paul mention only the fathers. Parents are a team. They parent together, obviously. But I think the reason Paul singles out the fathers is because he expects fathers to lead their homes. To bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. If your kids are not trained and instructed in the ways of the Lord, fathers, God will hold you responsible. Take this responsibility seriously.
Again, in Eph 6:5-9, Paul outlines the need for the Spirit on the part of the slaves and the masters. Slaves need to be filled with the Spirit in order to obey their human masters with fear and trembling with sincere hearts because they are living before Christ. They are serving the Lord and not men. On the other side, masters need to be filled with the Spirit so that they treat their slaves with dignity, not threatening them or abusing their authority because Christ is Master of everyone. This applies directly to those who have positions of authority at work today and those who are serving under the authority of a manager or boss. Both parties need to be filled with the Spirit.
In marriages, there is potential for a great amount of friction because you are with each other 24×7. Husbands and wives need to be constantly filled by the Spirit so that they can submit to one another. Both parties need the Spirit in order for the relationship to go well. It is important to talk about mutual submission before talking about gender roles and asking women to submit to men. If a husband is not living in reverent fear before Christ and he is not asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit each day and his heart is dead and hardened and he demands his wife to submit, will it work? No, of course not! If the wife is told to submit to her husband and she is not living in reverent fear before Christ and she is not asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit each day and her heart is dead and hardened, will she willingly submit and respect her husband and help him to lead? No, of course not! The Holy Spirit is the oil that creates a buffer to protect the marriage so that the friction caused by the marriage does not destroy the marriage.
Before you and I can be filled with the Holy Spirit, we need to be emptied of ourselves. If you bought a brand new car and you want to park it in your garage, you won’t be able to if your garage is filled with junk. You got to get rid of junk and donate some stuff to make room so that you can pull the car into the garage. The same principle applies to our hearts. You might be praying and reading Scripture, but nothing sticks. You are not being filled with the Spirit. And your heart has grown cold and your mouth has grown silent and you have stopped praising and singing melody to the Lord from your heart and you can’t submit to the Christians around you because you see their flaws. Maybe it’s because you haven’t taken the junk out of your heart. You are too full of yourself.
Before we can be filled, we need to be emptied. If you are not filled with the Spirit, every relationship in your life will eventually fall apart. Only a Spirit-generated selflessness can allow our relationships to flourish in a way that pleases God. We need to be filled with the Spirit. Let’s pray.
In preparation for Lord’s Supper, as some background music is played, I want to lead you through a time of prayer.
Before we come to the Lord’s Table, we are commanded to examine our hearts. Examine your speech. Are you speaking to other Christians in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? Or do you find yourself speaking negative words that discourage others? Do you sing and making music from your heart to the Lord, or has your heart grown silent and you are just paying lip service to God? Are you giving thanks from the bottom of your heart, or do you offer grumbling?
Examine your relationships. Your relationship with other brothers and sisters, your family relationships and your work relationships. Are you submitting to others in the fear of Christ? Or do you stubbornly refuse to bow the knee to others because you think you are always right? In a marriage relationship, if the husband and wife are in standstill and neither side is willing to submit before the other, then husbands, you must follow the example of Christ. He took the first step and laid down his life while the world was crucifying him. Make the first move, die to your pride and lay down your life for your wife as Christ did for the church.
Search your speech, search your relationships and search your hearts before the Lord. Take out the junk from your heart and ask the Spirit to fill it.
If you want to accept Christ or want to rededicate your life to the Lord, please come forward for prayer. Let’s pray.