The Link Between Submission and Spiritual Warfare
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Ephesians 5:17-21 (ESV)
Yes, we’re talking about submission today. Most of us don’t like discussing this subject, but I encourage you to keep reading!!! I was listening to a sermon yesterday on parenting, based on Ephesians 6:1-4, and God began to show me some big things that I had been missing. The key thing we’re going to talk about is the connection between submission and the armor of God (spiritual warfare). Starting in Ephesians 4-5, Paul begins to discuss unity in the body of Christ and our identity in Christ. This involves walking in love (5:1-2), forgiving one another (4:32), having our minds renewed by the Holy Spirit (4:23), giving no opportunity to the devil (4:27), not giving in to anger (4:26), becoming a new creation in Christ (4:22-24), etc. In the latter half of Ephesians 5 through the first half of Ephesians 6, Paul begins to discuss the various forms of submission, concluding that we should ALL submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21). He specifically talks about the various roles of submission: a husband to God, a wife to husband, children to parents, and employees to employers. Immediately following these usually-skipped-over passages on submission, Paul talks about the armor of God, saying “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (6:10-11). So, why does spiritual warfare immediately follow submission? Is there a connection? Paul using the word “finally” in the beginning of verse 10 tells us that what was previously stated is of importance in understanding what comes next. So, let’s dive in and explore this connection. The word submission (hypotasso) means to subordinate, to submit one’s control, to put in subjection, to obey. “This word was a Greek military term meaning ‘to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.’ In non-military use, it was ‘a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.’ (Blue Letter Bible) In the military, there are ranks. Each soldier is required to report to their commanding officer. Without submitting to the proper authority, there would not only be chaos, but there would be no hope of winning a war. Ranks ensure that each soldier knows exactly what to do and works together to achieve a common goal. Without ranks, each soldier would try to ascertain control and take charge in their own way, leading to disorder and confusion within the unit. The same is true of us within our family and relational units. When everyone in a family unit attempts to take charge, chaos is birthed. The same is true at work or church. If every employee or congregation member tried to be the boss, then nothing would be accomplished. Unity is accomplished through submission to proper, God-given authority. And, without unity, there can can be no thriving or succeeding. Jesus demonstrated submission when He placed Himself under the Father’s authority, sacrificing Himself for the sins of the world (Luke 22:42). If Christ (who is God) could submit to the Father in the hardest time of His life, and if the Holy Spirit lives inside of us as believers, then we too have the power to submit to our God-given authority, just as Christ did. It’s hard, but not impossible. When Paul says we are to submit “as to the Lord,” it means that by submitting to our God-given authority, we are submitting to the Lord. This is how we show submission to God’s will. We are not called to only submit if the one to whom we are submitting is a Christian and trustworthy and is also submitting to their God-given authority. We are called to submit regardless of what they do or don’t do. Our obedience does not and should not hinge on someone else’s obedience to God. Submission is, at its core, an act of trusting in God, not the other person. It’s letting go of our semblance of control and giving God the reins to our life. So, in order to be of use in the battle, we must be in line with our God-given authority. Paul sets up these passages strategically. We must first be grounded in Christ, who we are in Him and who He says we are. This is the foundation. Then, out of that revelation and knowledge of our identity in Christ, we begin to walk in love and unity within the body of Christ. And, out of that unity, we submit to our God-ordained authority, taking our rank and fighting stance in the spiritual war. Think of the time and energy saved by being in submission first before trying to fight a spiritual battle on our own without the unity, power and strength of the body of Christ and without first being grounded in Him. Each is a necessary and vital step to being an effective and victorious fighter in the spiritual realm. This is how we are able to be strong in the Lord and fight. This is how spiritual battles are won and victory is obtained.
Satan wants us divided. He wants us in the dark on our identity in Christ. He wants to keep us in chaos. He knows the power that lies within us - the power of the Holy Spirit - and if he can keep us from seeing and living out of that power, then he knows we won’t be able to fight against him. We may be throwing punches, but we’ll be swinging at the air and missing every time. Don’t let Satan distract you with his lies and schemes. Get in the Word of God to root yourself in who you are in Christ. Plug into a body of believers and align yourself under the proper authority. Take your fighting stance in the ranks of God’s army and fight - not out of your own strength, but out of the might and power of the Holy Spirit working in, through and around you. This is the battle plan and the key to victory in spiritual warfare.
Scripture References Used in this Post:
Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV): "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Ephesians 4:32 (ESV): "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
Ephesians 4:23 (ESV): "and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,"
Ephesians 4:27 (ESV): "and give no opportunity to the devil."
Ephesians 4:26 (ESV): "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,"
Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV): "to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
Luke 22:42 (ESV): "saying, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.'"
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