Summary: An incomprehensive study of the 'one another' verses. Part 4
When studying any verse or passage of scripture we must be cognizant of what comes both before and after that verse or passage. This is the only way to accurately divide the word of truth.
Paul and the other writers of the New Testament were not sitting down with a quill and parchment, meditating on the passing clouds and scribbling down every disjointed piece of inspiration that came to them; like a 1950’s Beatnik rambling from his stool in a smoke-filled coffee house.
They were writing as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. In addition the epistles of the New Testament were being written to real churches, with real people, with real problems and real need for godly instruction. Just like us.
So when we look at a verse like Ephesians 5:21 “...and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ”, we cheat ourselves if we try to teach only from that verse, using it as a springboard for our opinions, rather than looking at it in context and getting the full measure of the writer’s intent from it.
The reason I’m saying all of this here, is because Ephesians 5:21 provides such a perfect example of what I’m saying.
What is it, to be ‘subject’ to one another? Doesn’t somebody have to be the boss? Why is it important, to the individual or to the church?
In this case, as in many, it is the verses around it; the things the writer has to say in conjunction with this exhortation, that answer all those questions.
Let’s back all the way up, to the beginning of chapter 4 just for a moment.
Paul has just finished outlining our wondrous spiritual riches in Christ Jesus in the first several chapters. He ends that portion of his discourse with the benediction of chapter 3, verses 20 and 21.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.
It is in chapter four that he begins a new thought, but not unrelated to the things that have gone before. It is as though he is saying, ‘with all our riches in Christ Jesus in mind, and being conscious of our access in Him to the Throne, and of His majesty and power, and having ascribed to Him all glory in the church...’
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” 4:1-3
He now proceeds from there, to talk about our walk. Christian behavior, our relationship with one another, and finally, at the end of chapter 6, the warfare of the Christian and how to walk in the victory that Christ has won for us.
So skip now to the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5, remembering that Paul made no chapter or verse divisions:
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (4:32)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”. (5:1,2)
So we see that Paul puts a very strong emphasis on our relationship to one another as an indication of our true spirituality and the legitimacy of our relationship to God.
I can go for a long time talking like a Christian, and acting like a pious, God-fearing, clean cut pillar of the church. But does that show in my relationship with other believers?
No matter how spiritually mature I may seem in other areas; no matter how eloquently I can expound the scriptures, and no matter who I know that’s well-known or important...
...if people know that to cross me is to incur my wrath; if they know that when a difference of opinion arises I am going to dig in my heels and insist that my way is best; if they know that I hold up some high moral standard of my own and if they fail in any part of it I will criticize or reject them, then where is the benefit of all my knowledge or my clout?
“...if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” I Cor 13:2