by Christopher Harbin

Complete Submission
Christopher B. Harbin
Ephesians 5:17-33

We often sanction and promote competing authority structures within a family system, workplace, or church. One is the official structure, while the hidden structures work behind the scenes, often in opposition to the official one. In a male dominated society, the man of the house is often the figurehead of power and authority, while the woman of the house takes charge behind the scenes or in the man’s absence, often circumventing his demands without his knowledge. The result is a struggle for power, a system of inherent conflict as individuals vie for power, authority, and dominance. None of us really want to lay down our lives in submission to some other’s authority.

Paul had been writing in Ephesians about equality before Christ. He had lain out clearly that salvation is established only on the basis of grace. Before God’s eyes, we are all in need of grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness. No one among us is better or more deserving than any another. Jews and Gentiles together fall under the same banner of need before God. Paul had then moved on to address our responsibility to grow into maturity, seeking after the goal of becoming as Christ, imitators of God in character, attitude, word, and action. Paul then moved on into some of the practical aspects of that equality. In what may be surprising language for some, he then called for a mutuality of submission.

After detailing some of the practical ways in which our actions should reflect godliness rather than the social interests that surround us, Paul turns to this question of submission, a mutual submission to be shared among all components of the church. At heart, this message is about letting go of any sense of personal superiority, power, dominance, or control. It requires, rather, that we place our lives in loving service to God and others, letting go of selfish concerns.

Paul’s words here on submission have been twisted all too often. T ...

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