Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
We have the Word and the Spirit to help us live as children of light. Together, the Word (that helps us know God’s will) and the Spirit (who enables us to understand the Word and do God’s will, Philippians 2:13) assist us in walking in the light.
We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit—and not be drunk with wine which leads to excessive indulgence. The Greek verb in verse 18 translated as “filled” is a present imperative: this implies that being filled is to be a consistent lifestyle, not just a one-time experience.
Being filled with the Spirit enables us to do four things (Ephesians 5:19–20). Firstly, we can have true fellowship when we “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (v. 19). Secondly, we can truly worship when we make music in our hearts to the Lord. Thirdly, we can pray gratefully, giving thanks to God for everything. And fourthly, we can submit to one another. Here is the true bride of Christ in action.
Notice that the call for mutual submission is not to be misunderstood in terms of modern notions of egalitarianism—it is to be done out of reverence (or fear) for Christ (v. 21). The Greek word for submission contains an idea of orderliness. As John Stott points out, biblical submission is a “humble recognition of the divine ordering of society”. It is often misunderstood when we take the perspective that everyone is equal in every respect. That Paul did not mean this, is clear from his discussion of relationships in the family and workplace: he speaks of husband-wife, parent-child, and master-slave (or servant) relationships. In these, there are some who have been given authority which must be respected. But the authority must not be abused.
People in such relationships are of equal worth in God’s eyes, but they have different roles and responsibilities. As theologian John H. Yoder observed, “Equality of worth is not identity of role”. We must avoid unbalanced interpretations of what Paul says, whether in thinking that some are inferior to others, or in believing that there is no God-instituted hierarchy in social relationships.
How is one filled with the Holy Spirit? Reflect on the effects of being filled with the Spirit, both in individuals and in the community.
How should we interpret the idea of biblical submission? What are some mistaken notions and expressions of submission in church?