What Does Living In The Will Of God Really Involve?
Eph 5:17 “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
It means being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit and living under the ongoing influence of the Spirit in every area of life. St Paul wrote, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” He, of course, meant being filled with the Holy Spirit. Eph 5:18.
What should be the outcomes, the corollaries, the inevitable results of being filled with the Spirit? What Paul does next is very instructive. He introduces one long sentence joined by a series of participles, rather than verbs, to show that each section is dependent on the main verb, “be filled.” The verb “be filled” is a present tense, imperative [or command] so it could be translated as “keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.“ It means then that the phrases which follow are not separate commands based on verbs such as “address”, “sing”, “make melody”, “give thanks”, “submit!” That is important to note when we come to the word “submit” later in the chapter. Rather they are participles connected to the main verb, “be filled.” It gives the sense that if the command “to be filled” is continuously obeyed, then the outcomes in verses 19-21 can characterise the life of the person who is open to God filling him or her with the Holy Spirit.
The Vertical And Horizontal Consequences Of Being Filled With The Spirit. 5:19-21
- “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
- singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, Eph 5:19,
- giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Eph 5:20.
- submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph 5;21.
We note from the above, that being filled with the Spirit has both vertical and horizontal outcomes.
* The vertical [to God] outcomes and responsibilities are singing and making melody to the Lord and giving thanks to Him for everything.
*The horizontal [to one another] outcomes and responsibilities are addressing one another in Psalms, hymns etc and submitting to one another in Christ. We could summarise these verses 19-21 in this way,
- Ministering To One Another While Focussed On Praise To God, Eph 5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”,
- Ministering To The Lord In Praise And Thanksgiving. “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”, 5:19-20.
- Ministering To One Another, In Mutual Submission to one another and to Christ, Eph 5:21 “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Mutual Submission In Practice, In The Body Of Christ. 5:22-6:9
The passage from 5:22 to 6:9 really follows on from the main command in verse 5:18 “to be filled with the Spirit.” It spells out in detail what mutual submission should look like in its practical application. There is some conjecture as to whether verse 22 begins a new sentence, or is a continuation of the wording in verse 21 such as “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives to husbands as to the Lord.” However what is more certain, is that there is no verb in many Greek manuscripts, so that the verse reads, “wives to husbands as to the Lord”. That is less confronting to many people than the “Wives be subject to your husbands” found in many translations.
We note in passing that it is not the subjection of women as a class to men as a class. Rather it refers to the relationship of husbands and wives as they live in mutual submission to one another as part of the general command to believers to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Because I have written previously about this latter part of Ephesians chapter 5, I will not dwell on it here. You can see my previous article No 045 on this link
However, we need to see that the theme of mutual submission continues into chapter 6 of Ephesians.
Mutual Submission. Children and Parents. 6:1-4
Children and parents. 6:1-3
The obedience that children are to render to their parents has a context. It presupposes that both parents and children are “in the Lord” and all are submitted to His rule over their lives. Eph 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” If parents are exercising their God-given privileges and responsibilities, then the children should feel safe and secure to submit to them in obedience.
The obedience required of children is also based on God’s revealed will in His word in the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments] quoted here by Paul. Eph 6:2 “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” The basis for rendering obedience is here seen as the need for the relationship to go well for both parties, and for the future protection and welfare of the children.
It has to be noted of course that the children’s submission to Christ may sometimes have to overrule their submission to parents when the latter refuse to be submitted to Christ themselves and in doing so, abrogate their responsibility as Christian parents.
Parents and children. 6:4
The responsibility of mutual submission is applicable also to the parents. Here Paul demands that fathers not provoke their children to anger, Eph 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The word for “provoke to anger” is [parorgizō, παροργίζω] which is only used twice in the New Testament as a verb and once as a noun, as in Eph 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” The latter verse gives an indication as to what is involved in the submission of parents to their children. There may be cause for parental anger at times, as the word for “be angry” [ὀργίζεσθε be angry or as NIV translates, In your anger ] suggests. However prolonged unrepentant anger [parorgizō, παροργίζω] later in the verse, is not appropriate for Christian parents. Misplaced anger can be a provocation for children to respond inappropriately.
The appropriate model for child-raising is then introduced by Paul, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 6:4. The word for “discipline” is [paideia; παιδεία] which is used in relation to children and to adults. For example, the writer to the Hebrews wrote of discipline using this same word, Heb 12:9 “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” True discipline always has a positive motivation in the one exercising it, leading to a beneficial result for the person being disciplined.
“Instruction” is [nouthesia; νουθεσία] and is only found twice elsewhere. In 1 Cor 10:11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” and in Titus 3:10 where it is translated as warning, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” We can learn a lot from the successes and failures of those in the past, including our own. On the basis of what we have learned we are able to warn others of the consequences of behaviours that we know will be detrimental to those behaving in such a way.
No wonder Paul advises his readers to bring up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Mutual Submission. Bondservants and Masters to each other and to God as Master of all. 6:5-9
Paul is saying that everyone is accountable to God, including masters and bondservants.
He addresses first of all, the accountability of bondservants to masters but in doing so shows that their service, is in reality, to the Lord as master, and not just to their human masters. Notice these phrases in the following verses, “as you would Christ”, “bondservants of Christ”, “as to the Lord.” Eph 6:5 “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ” 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”
Paul then addresses the masters and reminds them that they too are accountable to God and have responsibilities to their bondservants. Eph 6:9 “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” There is One master for bondservants and their masters, who shows no partiality. The masters in the treatment of their bondservants must not be threatening to them because the One true master now in heaven did not threaten, even in extremely difficult circumstances, [“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Pet 2:23]
A Suggested Prayer Based On Ephesians 5:17-16:9
How can one condense all the teaching in this passage into one simple prayer? Not easily! The passage began with the need to understand what the will of the Lord is. It then moved on to the need to keep on being filled with the Spirit to be motivated and enabled to fulfil our responsibilities to God and to one another in Him. A major part of that was living in submission to Him and to one another, in Him.
‘Heavenly Father, I want to live in the centre of Your will for me. I open every area of my life to You, and ask that You might keep on filling me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can submit myself to your rule over my life. I want to be motivated and empowered by Your Spirit to humble myself in my family and working life, in ways that will be a blessing to others and will bring glory to You. I ask these things in Jesus’ name, and for His sake. AMEN.”