Spirit-Filled Submission

John MacArthurby John MacArthur

“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Spirit-filled believers will submit to one another.

To the world, submission implies personal weakness or the coercive dominance of one person by another stronger, more intimidating individual. Such perspectives, however, are unbiblical. The noted expositor Martyn Lloyd Jones describes submission’s original meaning in a military context, which helps us understand its scriptural definition:

It is the picture of soldiers in a regiment, soldiers in a line under an officer . . . and if he [the soldier] begins to act on his own, and independently of the others, he is guilty of insubordination and will be punished accordingly. Such is the word the Apostle uses; so what he is saying amounts to this—that we who are filled with the Spirit are to behave voluntarily in that way with respect to one another. We are members of the same regiment, we are units in this same great army. We are to do that voluntarily which the soldier is “forced” to do.

In addition to Ephesians 5:21, the New Testament repeatedly expresses the importance of submitting to one another. Philippians 2:3-4 tell us how mutual submission ought to operate: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” And Hebrews 13:17 commands us to submit to our spiritual leaders: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

The only way we can possess any of those traits or exhibit any of that behavior is to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we will be able to voluntarily and joyfully submit to the Lord and one another in love, just as the apostle John urges: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

by John MacArthur

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