“A New Church – A New Relationship” – Eph. 5:21-6:9
For some of you, this past week has been pretty stressful. For some of you, this past lifetime has been pretty stressful but while I have lots of concerns about the where’s and how’s of moving our church to Lake Bridgeport, I’m really not stressed about it and I hope you aren’t. I do have a simple test to see if you and your family are stressed, just so you will know. That way you can be working on it.
1. ___ Conversations often begin with "Put the gun down, and then "we can talk."
2. ___ The cat is on Valium.
3. ___ You are trying to get your four-year-old grandson to switch to decaf.
4. ___ No one has time to wait for microwave TV dinners.
5. ___ "Family meetings" are often mediated by law enforcement officials.
6. ___ You have to check your day-planner to see if you can take out the trash.
If that is the way it is at your house, you may have stress in your life. Everybody with a job that requires you to work with people probably makes the joke that this job would be great if it weren’t for all these people. People cause stress. It is universal and for all times. Everybody is busy and everybody gets their nerves in a knot every now and then.
There are libraries full of books and tapes on how to de-stress and how to make the most of your time and how not to let people bother you. These people have some good ideas like get enough sleep, de-clutter your space, set boundaries, be positive, and take time for yourself. Those aren’t bad ideas to try but why is it that even after you do all of those things, somebody can walk up and with one sentence, send your blood pressure through the roof?
I know that we have so many things going right now these days and everything seems to be happening at once and everybody wants your full attention for everything they are doing that you sometimes don’t feel like being Christ-like. Your spouse is getting on your nerves, your boss, your employees, your kids are all acting crazy. Why don’t they listen to you? You know you have the right answer. It’s obvious and yet everybody wants to do something else. Crazy people!
Does that sound like your house, your job, your family…your church? “Ooh, now he’s meddlin’!” Well, the Bible has some wise words for all of us. Imagine that. Our passage this morning is in Ephesians. This is the last of the series on how we as a new church should look like. We have seen that we are to have a new life, a new society, a new standard and this week we will see how we are to have a new relationship.
All of this is found in Ephesians and today we will look at Ephesians 5, verse 21 through chapter 6, verse 9. Read.
When Paul wrote Ephesians, he did not have all of the punctuation we have nor did he put in paragraphs and certainly not the paragraph headings that most of us have in our Bibles and most of the time they are very helpful. But in my Bible, verse 21 is separated from the rest of this and I don’t think it should be.
In fact, verse 21 sums up all of the rest of the passage we are going to look at. Read verse 21. “21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Now, good luck finding that in any of those self-help books. And honestly, I want to stop right there and camp out on that verse because if we can get that right then it will manifest itself in all of our relationships.
If we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ then our relationship with our spouse will honor the Lord. If we can submit to each other out of reverence for Christ then our relationships at home will honor Christ and also for our relationships at work. If we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ then our whole lives will honor Christ.
There is, of course, one small problem. When I say the word “submit” what is your natural reaction? I can almost guarantee you that your first natural reaction was not. “Oh, ok. No problem. That’s easy.” Right? It’s the same problem we had over in chapter 4, verse 2 where it says to be completely humble and gentle, with patience and love. Oh, sure. Want me to give a million dollars away too?
There are at least 3 questions that come up when one considers the prospect of submitting to another person. They are good and natural questions and need to be answered.
1) If I submit to my husband, parents or boss, does that mean that I am inferior to them?
2) If I don’t look out for myself, then who will?
3) What if the person to whom I submit abuses their role?
To answer all 3 of those questions it is helpful to know exactly what that word “submit” actually means. It was originally a Greek military term meaning to arrange in military fashion under the control of a leader. It shows order and purpose. In non-military use it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility and carrying a burden. It quite literally means “to put under”. (Strong’s Concordance)
Now, does putting yourself under someone else mean that you are inferior to that person as in question 1? Martin Luther wrote that “we are to sharply distinguish between these two, the office and the person.” As a person, we are all created equally. Since this is a military term, let’s think about how the military operates. Everyone in the military has a rank. Without it, there would be chaos. Nothing would get done.
My uncle is quite a character and evidently always has been. When he joined the army they, of course, sent him to boot camp. He said he was there for only a couple of weeks and they sent another group of young men to the camp to start their basic training. Uncle Bill thought it would be funny to wake the brand new recruits up in the middle of the night and claim he was a sergeant. He made them get dressed and do pushups and even got them out in the yard to do some marching. He screamed at them and told them they were worthless and all the stuff the real sergeant had been screaming at him.
He thought that was real funny until the next day when they figured out what happened and made him stand in front of everybody in camp and salute himself in front of a mirror and order himself to do pushups. True story. See, without order, the military would collapse and so would the church and so would our lives and our relationships. But at the same time, if the lowliest private is trapped behind enemy lines, the military will still do everything possible to get him back because they recognize the value of the man as a person.
John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world…” He died for everybody, not just the famous people or the rich or the ones who make laws. What you have to realize is that part of the definition that says to submit is a voluntary act of putting yourself under another. And what happens when you put yourself under someone? You lift them up. It’s not about being inferior. It is about voluntarily lifting others up out of reverence for Christ.
The second question that might be asked is, “If I don’t look out for myself, then who will?” And it is a shame that this question has to be asked but it’s a natural. If I lift other people up; if I submit myself to others out of reverence for Jesus, then who is going to lift me up and meet my needs?
My first response to that question (and I have several) is that we are not guaranteed to have anybody in our life to meet our needs as we see them. I’m sorry to be blunt but it is just a fact. Ask Paul who is writing this. He spent his whole life lifting others up and lifting Jesus up and there were times in his life when I think we can all agree that his needs as we would define them were not met. You know the passage in II Corinthians 11 where Paul describes his hardships; beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, hungry, thirsty, etc.
But there is something else I want us to see about this verse and that is that it is a command. Paul is not asking. He is not saying, “Hey, it would be nice if you could…” This is a command to submit to each other. And what happens when we are obedient to a command? BOOCOD? There are blessings of obedience and consequences of disobedience.
What happened when Abraham was obedient and left his comfortable home? Blessings. What happened when David was obedient and killed Goliath? Blessings. What happened when Peter was obedient and got out of the boat? Blessings. What happened when FBC Runaway Bay was obedient when we didn’t know how to pay our electric bill? BLESSINGS! When we are obedient to what God tells us to do, God takes care of His children. It may not be how we think it should be done. But He always takes care of us.
Lastly, when you are submissive to others in a church, do you know what happens? What have I said about our attitudes? They are contagious. If you walk into a church where everybody has to have their way, how are you going to act? But when we as a church submit ourselves to each other in reverence for Christ, it starts to catch on. It is not the default attitude for people and so sometimes it may take a while but God sees it and blesses it and pretty soon we are known as a church that doesn’t have stress or division or members talking behind each other’s backs. We are known as a church that has a passion for people and a passion for Jesus which is just how we want to be known.
The last question I want to address today is if I submit to someone, what if they abuse that submission? What if they take advantage of me? This could happen in any one of these roles; as a wife to a husband, a child to a parent or a slave to a master or even right here in the church.
To answer that, we must first see where this authority comes from. It comes from God. God is a God of order and has established certain authority or leadership roles. He tells wives, children and workers to be submissive but the husband, parents and bosses must discern the Lord Himself has given them that authority and it is not to be abused. It is the same with all Christians. We must submit out of reverence for Christ who not only wields the authority but also humbled himself as a servant.
So that submission that we are commanded to give is not unconditional. That authority is not unlimited. The submission required is to God’s authority delegated to human beings. If, therefore, they misuse their God-given authority by commanding what God forbids or forbidding what God commands then our duty to submit no longer holds and to do so would disobey and dishonor God.
So, we see that submission does not make you inferior to the other person. We will be taken care of by God and be blessed when we submit to others and we see that authority is not unconditional. So it should be real easy now that we understand, right? No problem?
I hear you. I do. “Todd, I just can’t do it. I know I should but I just can’t. I’ve been burned before and I just can’t do it.”
As I have told you several times as we have gone through this series…you are exactly right. You can’t do it. No matter how hard you try you will not be able to submit, at least not for long. But when you come to that realization, you are right where you are supposed to be.
You see, the answer is back in verse 18. Let’s go back and read that. Not the part about not getting drunk although those are wise words but the latter part. “Be filled with the Spirit.” Everything past verse 18 supposes that you are filled with the Spirit. You can’t speak to one another with spiritual songs unless you are filled with the Spirit. You can’t submit to your husband for any length of time without being filled with the Spirit and so on for children, workers and members of this church.
Every one of these sermons on Ephesians has hinged on being in Christ; you do it through Christ; you do it out of reverence for Christ. You remember what Paul said earlier about Christ being the cornerstone of the church? You can’t do any of this without Christ being foremost, filling and working through you. It’s not about you. Because when you make it about you there will be stress in your home. There will be stress in your job. There will be stress, disunity and division in this church.
But with Christ and through Christ we can have new relationships with each other and we as a church can have a new relationship with the city of Lake Bridgeport, Wise County and the rest of the world.