Monday, April 16, 2007


Ephesians 5:21
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ"
The Greek word for submit is hupotasso. It appears often in secular Greek and it carries the meaning of “to lose or surrender one’s own rights or will.” One could be forced to submit or one could submit voluntarily. In the New Testament the word appears thirty eight times and carries several English translations in addition to “submit.” It is used in relation to Jesus Christ and it is used in relation to human relationships.

Luke 2:51 says the boy, Jesus, “went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient (hupotasso) to them.”

Philippians 3:20, 21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control (hupotasso), will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus has the power to make all things submit to himself.

Paul says something similar in Ephesians 1:22, “And God placed all things under his feet (hupotasso) and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” God the Father subordinated all things to his Son, Jesus. He made all things submit to Jesus.

But then we have a number of cases where hupotasso is used to describe human relationships. In these cases it means “to submit oneself.” In secular Greek hupotasso was used to describe rank and order and authority. But in the kingdom of Christ it takes on a new meaning. Paul and the apostles use this word to describe a readiness to give up one’s own rights and will for the sake of others and to give precedence to others.

This meaning can only be applied to Christians because outside of Christ such attitudes are impossible. For example, Paul writes in Romans 8:5-7, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit (hupotasso) to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

The mind of the unregenerate person, the unsaved person, is set on what it desires for itself. What does fallen man desire? Honor, respect, power, authority, rights, freedoms, etc. He demands them. He is willing to fight for them. He is out for number one. He is hostile toward God because he does not want to submit to any authority other than himself. In fact, Paul says, the unconverted mind cannot submit itself to God’s law. It is not capable of doing so. Because of his sinful mind the unconverted person cannot submit to nor please God.

In Romans 10 Paul writes about his passion to see the Jewish people come to faith in Christ. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit (hupotasso) to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:1-3). The Jewish people are very religious. They have a kind of zeal for God and for religious things. They are very pious. But they are so proud of their zeal and piety that they are unwilling to submit to the true righteousness that comes only from God.

So there are two reasons unconverted people will not and cannot submit themselves to God: their sinfulness and their self-righteousness. They will not submit or surrender their own wills and their own rights to God or to anyone else. It is completely contrary to the nature of a fallen person to submit his own will and rights to someone else and to subject himself voluntarily to another.

But Paul has told his Christian readers they are different; they are changed. We are no longer to live in the old ways. In other words, we are supposed to be willing to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. And the kind of submission God requires of his people can only be achieved by dependence on the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul closely connects the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit with this all-important teaching about how Christians are supposed to relate to one another. For those of us who are in Christ, submission takes on a whole new meaning. While our society continues to demand a certain rank and order, in the kingdom of Christ we submit to one another.


At 7:54 AM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...


Doulos Christou has a new post up at No Pearls Before Swine. There's a link in my sidebar.


At 6:24 AM, Blogger jazzycat said...

Your Ephesians series has been solid and true. With all the false teaching going on, it is very encouraging to see sound doctrine being taught all across this country and the world. You are doing what God through Paul called you to do. May God bless your efforts.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Scribe said...


The "weightiness" of God's command to submit comes down even harder in light of your post...I am reminded of Christ's foot-washing of the disciples as a clear example from our Lord as how to submit. Great post Dave, unfortunately "hupotasso" has worn it's welcome in evangelicalism today.

At 4:57 AM, Blogger Bluecollar said...

Dave, right-on, here.....
"That is why Paul closely connects the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit with this all-important teaching about how Christians are supposed to relate to one another."

W/O The Holy Spirit this would be IMPOSSIBLE!!! Oh, how we need Him. Oh, how we need to honor Christ by submitting.


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