Ephesians 5: Roles & Mutual Submission

Benny Phillips spoke on Ephesians 5:21-24, in which Paul calls for mutual submission to each other as we walk out our various roles as husbands, wives, children, parents, masters and servants. Our identity, he taught, is not defined by our roles. But our God-given roles guide us in how we are to live out our identity in Christ.

Select excerpts from the sermon:

There are three identifiers that mark who we are in Christ: wife, child and slave. We are the bride of Christ, children of the living God and slaves of the Lord Jesus, every single one of us. All of these roles are governed by one core attitude, that we submit ourselves to one another in the fear of the Lord. Whether we are a new convert or old saint, we are equal in the eyes of God and each one of us has been given the grace of God, which we should display to each other regardless of the role we happen to be in. We are members of one body, mutually submitted to each other, loved by Christ and serving the mission he has given us. This doesn't mean that there is no divine order or specific roles. But in this passage, God doesn't ask parents to submit to children in the same way that the children submit to their parents. There is a way that I, as a father, mutually submit to my children, by that is by serving them and not exasperating them. This call to mutual submission doesn't eliminate roles between husbands and wives and parents and children. But it establishes the particulars of those roles. The point is not to create turf wars and create narrowly defined rules about who takes out the trash and stays up late with the baby. It means the same tender-serving laying down of Christ's life should exemplify our relationships with each other. We are to incarnate Christ to one another and display God's love to one another.

On the issue of being defined by our roles.

We need to be careful not to identify ourselves by our roles. I've been fighting this as a pastor. It's easy to blur the lines between who we are in our various vocations. When I go into home group I have to remind myself that I am entering this group, not as a pastor, but as a person who needs to be open and transparent. Sometimes people come in to the group who have traditional views of pastors and are uncomfortably by this. This is good. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and that should govern and drive our relationships, not our roles."

On submission in marriage:

I have not had very many bosses in my life. But I don't take submission very well. I don't like having to do things the way my boss does them. This is what my wife lives with every day. I doubt there are many things that I do from a leadership perpective that she wouldn't do differently. I tend to lead in a way that say, "It will get done. God is with us, let's trust God." Her desire is that, "this needs to happen, then this needs to happen, then this needs to happen, and then we can start planning." That must be a challenge. It's also sanctifying. Do you want to know why my wife is as sanctified as she is? It's because of how large a sinner I am. That's only slightly hyperbolic. God works in her life as she displays the character of Christ in absolutely wonderful ways. But she can't become dominated by her identity as a wife to the neglect of her other roles. There are other areas where she is called to exercise leadership. If she forgets to exercise the leadership that God has called her to exercise in other roles, then she can become dominated by one identity to the neglect of the other things God has called her to do.