Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Mystery of Submission - Ephesians 5 (part 2 of 16)

Continued from here.

"Submit to One Another"

Paul begins this section of discussion on marriage with a summary thesis statement which he will illustrate as the passage unfolds. The thesis is found in verse 21, which says,

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The admonishing is clear: submit to one another. This applies to men and women, boys and girls, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, cousins, and everyone else who is rooted in the life of Jesus. Paul says our motivation is reverence for Jesus the Messiah.

Who is “one another”?

At the start of this passage some have argued that “one another” is selective and doesn’t mean what it appears to mean. In some instances this word refers to some betraying (Matt 24:10) or killing “one another” (Rev 6:4) If one is betrayed, the argument goes, another cannot betray back again. If one is killed, the fallen one cannot get up and kill the other. Those who hold this view believe verse 21 is referring to men submitting to other men and women submitting to men. But they say it cannot mean men submitting to women.

The problems with this argument are several.

1) “One another” is about the general attitude or behavior of the group as a whole, not about each individual.

2) In the 100 instances of this word in the New Testament, the overwhelming majority is that this is a reciprocated word referring to loving (1 Thess 3:12), burden-bearing (Gal 6:2), discussing (Mark 8:16), reasoning (Luke 2:15), grumbling (John 6:43), confessing (James 5:16), humility (Phil 2:3) forgiving (Eph 4:32), foot-washing (John 13:14), sending gifts (Rev 11:10) making peace (Mark 9:50) and other admonitions. The only exceptions are those based on logic, not instruction, like in instances of betrayal or killing.

3) In no instance of “one another” are exceptions made based on gender, age, ethnicity, or class.

4) Submitting "one another" is a quality of being “filled” with the Spirit, starting in Ephesians 5:18, which also includes singing, speaking psalms, giving thanks. There are no gender-specific spirit-fillings in Paul’s letters nor a reason to say "hymns" are just for men, "giving thanks" just for people who have straight teeth, "speaking psalms" for people with good memories, and "submission" just for women. Those would be arbitrary assignments. The text assumes that everyone filled will make melody, give thanks, and submit to everyone else. Submission for everyone is also consistent with the rest of Scripture (see Mark 10:42-44, Phil 2:3).

To be continued...


Gem said...

I am enjoying your essay :)
Thank you!

see also 1 Peter 5:5 "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."

Dale Fincher said...

Thanks for stopping by. Peter's passage is another good example of how universal an issue this is in the Scripture. All submit to each other... why? Because this is what humility looks like as human beings made in God's image.