Ephesians 5:21
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
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(21) Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.—In grammatical construction this clause is connected with the preceding verses; in point of idea it leads on to the next section, which treats of the three-fold submission of wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters. There is, however, a certain connection of idea with the preceding section also, and especially with the encouragement of a Christian enthusiasm in the last clause. The strong and frequent emphasis laid in the New Testament on subjection, whether (as in Romans 13:1-7; 1Peter 2:13-17) to the civil powers, or (as here, in Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1, and 1Peter 2:18 to 1Peter 3:7) to domestic authority, or (as in 1Thessalonians 5:12-13; 2Thessalonians 3:6; 2Thessalonians 3:14-15) to ecclesiastical authority, probably indicates some tendency, in the first exuberance of Christian liberty and enthusiasm, to disregard the wholesome restraints, laws, and conventions of outward life. Hence St. Paul’s general caution here, prefatory to the more detailed teaching of subjection which follows.

5:15-21 Another remedy against sin, is care, or caution, it being impossible else to maintain purity of heart and life. Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to his design. If we have lost our time heretofore, we must double our diligence for the future. Of that time which thousands on a dying bed would gladly redeem at the price of the whole world, how little do men think, and to what trifles they daily sacrifice it! People are very apt to complain of bad times; it were well if that stirred them more to redeem time. Be not unwise. Ignorance of our duty, and neglect of our souls, show the greatest folly. Drunkenness is a sin that never goes alone, but carries men into other evils; it is a sin very provoking to God. The drunkard holds out to his family and to the world the sad spectacle of a sinner hardened beyond what is common, and hastening to perdition. When afflicted or weary, let us not seek to raise our spirits by strong drink, which is hateful and hurtful, and only ends in making sorrows more felt. But by fervent prayer let us seek to be filled with the Spirit, and to avoid whatever may grieve our gracious Comforter. All God's people have reason to sing for joy. Though we are not always singing, we should be always giving thanks; we should never want disposition for this duty, as we never want matter for it, through the whole course of our lives. Always, even in trials and afflictions, and for all things; being satisfied of their loving intent, and good tendency. God keeps believers from sinning against him, and engages them to submit one to another in all he has commanded, to promote his glory, and to fulfil their duties to each other.Submitting yourselves one to another - Maintaining due subordination in the various relations of life. This general principle of religion, the apostle proceeds now to illustrate in reference to wives Ephesians 5:22-24; to children Ephesians 6:1-3; and to servants, Ephesians 6:5-8. At the same time that he enforces this duty of submission, however, he enjoins on others to use their authority in a proper manner, and gives solemn injunctions that there should be no abuse of power. Particularly he enjoins on husbands the duty of loving their wives with all tenderness Ephesians 5:25-33; on fathers, the duty of treating their children so that they might easily obey them Ephesians 6:4; and on masters, the duly of treating their servants with kindness, remembering that they have a Master also in heaven; Ephesians 6:9. The general mean ing here is, that Christianity does not break up the relations of life, and produce disorder, lawlessness, and insubordination; but that it will confirm every proper authority, and make every just yoke lighter. Infidelity is always disorganizing; Christianity, never. 21. (Php 2:3; 1Pe 5:5.) Here he passes from our relations to God, to those which concern our fellow men.

in the fear of God—All the oldest manuscripts and authorities read, "in the fear of Christ." The believer passes from under the bondage of the law as a letter, to be "the servant of Christ" (1Co 7:22), which, through the instinct of love to Him, is really to be "the Lord's freeman"; for he is "under the law to Christ" (1Co 9:21; compare Joh 8:36). Christ, not the Father (Joh 5:22), is to be our judge. Thus reverential fear of displeasing Him is the motive for discharging our relative duties as Christians (1Co 10:22; 2Co 5:11; 1Pe 2:13).

Submitting yourselves one to another, viz. to those to whom ye ought to be subject in natural, civil, or church relations.

In the fear of God; either for fear of offending God, the Author of all power, who commands this subjection; or so far as is consistent with the fear of God, and so in those things which are not forbidden of him.

Submitting yourselves one to another,.... Which may be understood either in a political sense, of giving honour, obedience, and tribute, to civil magistrates, since they are set up by God for the good of men, and it is for the credit of religion for the saints to submit to them; or in an economical sense; thus the wife should be subject to the husband, children to their parents, and servants to their masters, which several things are afterwards insisted on, as explanative of this rule; or in an ecclesiastic sense, so the Ethiopic version renders it, "subject yourselves to your brethren": thus members of churches should be subject to their pastors, not in the same sense as they are to Christ, the head, nor are they obliged to believe or do everything they say, right or wrong; yet honour and esteem are due to them, and submission and obedience should be yielded to their doctrines, precepts, and exhortations, when they are agreeably to the word of God; since God has set them in the highest place in the church, called them to the highest service, and most honourable work, and bestowed on them the greatest gifts; the younger members should also submit to the elder, and the minority to the majority; one member should submit to another, to the superior judgment of another, and to the weakness of another, and to the admonitions of others, and so as to perform all offices of love: and the manner in which this duty is to be performed, is

in the fear of God; which may be considered as the moving cause of submission, or, as the rule of it; submission should be on account of the fear of God, and so far as is consistent with it; and indeed, the fear of God is that which should influence and engage to every duty; and which should be before our eyes, and in exercise in our hearts, in all concerns, civil and religious: the Alexandrian copy and some others, the Complutensian edition, and the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, "in the fear of Christ"; who is the head of the church, and King of saints, and as such to be feared and reverenced; and for his sake there should be a submission to one another; the Syriac version reads, in the love of Christ, which should constrain the saints to this duty.

{6} Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

(6) A short repetition of the end to which all things ought to be referred, to serve one another for God's sake.

Ephesians 5:21 f.[270] The words ὙΠΟΤΑΣΣ. ἈΛΛΉΛ. ἘΝ ΦΌΒῼ ΧΡ. still belong to Ephesians 5:20 (so Lachmann, Tischendorf, Bleek), parallel to the ΕὐΧΑΡΙΣΤΟῦΝΤΕς Κ.Τ.Λ., adding to this relation towards God the mutual relation towards one another. Then begins with αἱ γυναῖκες a new section, into the first precept of which we have to take over the verb from the ὙΠΟΤΑΣΣΌΜΕΝΟΙ just used, namely, ὙΠΟΤΆΣΣΕΣΘΕ (Elzevir) or ὙΠΟΤΑΣΣΈΣΘΩΣΑΝ (Lachmann). Calvin, Zanchius, Koppe, Flatt, Meier, Matthies, and others (comp. also Reiche, Comm. crit. p. 183), incorrectly hold that the participle is to be taken imperatively; in that case an ἐστέ to be supplied in thought must, as in Romans 12:9, have been suggested by the context. Olshausen quite arbitrarily proposes that we supply mentally: “are all believers.” If the new section was to begin with ὑποτασσ., then ὙΠΟΤΑΣΣ. ἈΛΛ. ἘΝ Φ. ΧΡ. would have to be regarded as an absolutely prefixed general attribute, to which the special one afterwards to be adduced would be subordinate (“inasmuch as ye subject yourselves in the fear of Christ, the wives ought,” etc.). It would not militate against this view, that in the sequel only the ὙΠΌΤΑΞΙς of the wives follows, while the ὑπακοή of the children and servants, in chap. 6, can no longer be brought into connection with our ὑποτασσόμενοι. For often with the classical writers also, after the prefixing of such absolute nominatives, which have reference to the whole collectively, the discourse passes only over to one part (not to several); see particularly Nägelsbach, z. Ilias, ed. 3, p. 385 f. But against it may be urged the consideration that αἱ γυναῖκες has no special verb; such a verb, and one correlative as to notion with ὙΠΟΤΑΣΣ., could not but be associated with it.

On the thought ὙΠΟΤΆΣΣΕΣΘΑΙ ἈΛΛΉΛΟΙς, comp. 1 Peter 5:5; Clem. Cor. 1:38.

ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ] is the fundamental disposition, in which the ὙΠΟΤΆΣΣΕΣΘΑΙ ἈΛΛΉΛΟΙς is to take place. And Christ is to be feared as the judge. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:22.

τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν] to their own husbands. Without being misunderstood, Paul might have written merely τοῖς ἀνδράσιν, but ἸΔΊΟΙς serves to make the obligation of the ὙΠΟΤΆΣΣΕΣΘΑΙ ΤΟῖς ἈΝΔΡΆΣΙΝ palpable in its natural necessity; for what a wife is she, who refuses obedience to her own husband! So also Stobaeus, S. 22: Θεανῶἐρωτηθεῖσα, τί πρῶτον εἴη γυναικί, τὸ τῷ ἰδίῳ, ἔφη, ἀρέσκειν ἀνδρί. Throughout the N.T. ἼΔΙΟς never stands in place of the mere possessive pronoun, but has always, as also with the Greeks, an emphasis to be derived from the connection, even at Matthew 12:5; Matthew 15:14 (see in loc.); 1 Peter 3:1; and Titus 2:5 (where the relation is as in our passage). This in opposition to Winer, p. 139 [E. T. 192], and at the same time in opposition to Harless and Olshausen, who (comp. also Dorville, ad Charit. p. 452) see in ὁ ἴδιος ἀνήρ nothing more than a designation which has become usual for the husband. From the very context, in itself ὁ ἀνήρ is husband (Hom. Od. xix. 294; Matthew 1:16). That which, on the other hand, Bengel finds in ἰδίοις: “etiamsi alibi meliora viderentur habere consilia,” is imported.

Ὡς Τῷ ΚΥΡΊῼ] By this is not meant the husbands (Thomas Aquinas, Semler), which must have been τοῖς κυρίοις, but Christ, and ὡς expresses the mode of view in which the wives are to regard their obedience towards the husbands, namely, as rendered to the Lord; comp. Ephesians 6:6-7. For the husband (see what follows) stands in relation to the wife not otherwise than as Christ to the church; in the conjugal relation the husband is the one who represents Christ to the wife, in so far as he is head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the church. To find in ὡς the mere relation, of resemblance (“uxoris erga maritum officia similia quodammodo sunt officiis Christianorum erga Christum,” Koppe) is erroneous on account of what follows; the passage must have run in the form ὡς ἡ ἐκκλησία τῷ κυρίῳ, which Erasmus has imported into his paraphrase: “non aliter, quam ecclesia subdita est Domino Jesu.” We may add that the view of Michaelis—that here and Colossians 3:18 the teachings as to marriage are directed against errors of the Essenes (comp. 1 Timothy 4:3)—is the more to be regarded as a fiction, inasmuch as Paul is speaking not of the propriety of marriage, but of the duties of the married life.

[270] A more sublime, more ideal regulation of the married state is not conceivable than that which is here set forth by the apostle, vv. 21–33, and yet it is one which has flowed from the living depth of the Christian consciousness, and hence is practically applicable to all concrete relations.

Ephesians 5:21. ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις: subjecting yourselves one to another. The connection of this clause is by no means clear. It is taken by not a few (Calv., Matthies, etc.) as an independent clause, the participle being dealt with as an imperative. But there is nothing to suggest the ἐστε which would have to be supplied. To relate the clause to the paragraph which follows means that it is the introductory, general statement, of which we have a particular application in what is said of the γυναῖκες. But in that case we should expect the duty of the γυναῖκες to be conveyed by a noun distinct from ὑποτασσόμενοι, but denoting a form of behaviour that would come easily under the comprehensive duty expressed by the participle. It is best to connect the clause, therefore, with what precedes it, and to take it as a fourth coordinate clause, giving yet another way in which the condition of being “filled with the Spirit” should express itself. The former three dealt with spiritual converse, praise, and thanksgiving; this one deals with what is due from ourselves to others. It is appended to the other three as a summary statement of duty in our relations one to another, of which particular applications are to be made. Thus it leads easily on to the special obligations which are next enforced. The same comprehensive statement of Christian duty in our earthly relations as summed up in the one idea of mutual ὑπόταξις, in contrast with pagan self-seeking and self-assertion, is given in 1 Peter 5:5.—ἐν φόβῳ Θεοῦ [Χριστοῦ]: in the fear of God [of Christ]. The reading of the TR, Θεοῦ, is that mostly of the cursives and a few Fathers. It must give place to Χριστοῦ, which is given by [591] [592] [593] [594] [595], Vulg., Syr., Boh., etc., and is accepted by LTTrWHRV. Other variations occur, e.g., Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ in D and Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in [596]. The phrase “in the fear of Christ” occurs only this once. Reverence for the Lord Himself was the spirit in which this great duty of mutual subjection was to be fulfilled.

[591] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[592] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[593] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[594] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[595] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.

[596] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.

21. submitting] The primary point in the spiritual ethics of the Gospel is humiliation; self is dethroned as against God, and consequently as against men. Here the special, but not exclusive, reference is to fellow-Christians. “[The precept] seems to have been suggested by the humble and loving spirit which is the moving principle of thanksgiving” (Ellicott).

Special applications of this great principle now follow, in a study of the relative duties of the Christian Home.

Ephesians 5:21. Ἀλλήοις, to one another) Now he proceeds to treat concerning our duty to others; and the foundation of this is the fear of Christ,[87] which derives its motives from the Christian faith; 1 Peter 2:13. A rare phrase; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:22.

[87] Namely, this reading, ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ, which the older Ed. had judged not quite certain, both the margin of the 2d Ed. reckons as quite certain, and the Germ. Vers. expresses it.—E. B.

AB Vulg. read Χριστοῦ; D(Δ)f read Ἰησοῦ; Gg read Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ; Rec. Text, Θεοῦ, without good authority.—ED.

Verse 21. - Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. The last of the participial exhortations depending on the general exhortation of ver. 15 to walk strictly, Most commentators connect it with the three immediately preceding participles (speaking, singing, giving thanks), but are unable to find a link of connection. Better connect with ver. 15. Mutual subjection is part of a wise, circumspect walk, i.e. mutual recognition of each other's rights and of our obligations to serve them. In some sense we are all servants, i.e. we are bound to serve others; the very father is, in this sense, servant of his child. So in the Christian Church we are all in a sense servants ("By love serve one another," Galatians 5:15; comp. Matthew 20:26-28; John 13:15, 16). This view is in harmony with the humble spirit of the gospel. Pride leads us to demand rigorously from others what we fancy they owe to us; humility, to give to others what Christ teaches that we owe to them. The one feeling is to be discouraged, the other exercised and strengthened. In the verses following we have this precept split up into its constituent filaments. The reading of R.V., "in the fear of Christ," has more authority than A.V., "in the fear of God." It brings to our mind the wonderful example of Christ in this clement of character (comp. Luke 2:51; Hebrews 5:8). Reverential regard for him should inspire us with the same spirit (Philippians 2:5-8). Ephesians 5:21
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