21 ¶ Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Here’s the end of one thought and the beginning of the next. We are to submit ourselves to each other, not to exercise our will over each other but each of us, man and woman, submitting to each other as Christians. If there be any strong willed individual in the assembly who feels a need to dominate others, and there is always one or two in every group, then they are out of God’s will.
Paul has defined what submission is throughout his letters to the various churches which are our doctrinal statements. Submission begins with an attitude.
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Thinking that you’ve already arrived someplace and you need to bring along your less fortunate in understanding brethren is not the attitude Paul wants you to have but more of a sharing what God has laid on your heart with others encouraging others as you have been encouraged. God works in a believer’s life, with the least pain having to be inflicted in the believer’s humility, not in his pride. Peter noted;
1 Peter 5:5 ¶ Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Without any clever play on Greek words for submission and subjection we can learn what it means to submit to each other directly from the Bible itself. Caring for each other and not placing ourselves one above another is first.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Remember that any comparison we make between ourselves and someone else should be between ourselves and Christ, not another believer, so that we are always aware of where we are heading. This next verse in Romans is the second level of Godly submission between believers.
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
So, we don’t place ourselves above the other person and we show deference, a courteous respect out of affection, to each other.
This is absolute equality in position in the church which must be established voluntarily by our own individual attitudes.
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
God is the great leveler of position and privilege if you take His words literally. Third, besides not putting yourself above another and showing courteous respect to others, comes this absolute equality before God I just mentioned.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Humility, respect, and equality between believers are essential parts of submission without distinctions of race or ethnicity, social position outside the church, or gender.
We are not told to worship each other, to bow the knee, and acknowledge mastery (2Kings 5:18; Psalm 22:29; Psalm 95:6). We are to submit to each other, to be in subjection to each other, to defer to each other, and to not hold ourselves higher in position and in any kind of ranking above each other.
One primary condition of being submissive to each other is not to judge another’s walk with Christ by our personal convictions but, if at all, by the clear words of Scripture.
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Humility, respect, equality, and a non-judgmental attitude between believers are essential to Godly submission. You still call out sin. You still have order. You still have standards. None of these requirements of submission change any of that.
In the chapter on the active love that a Christian is called to have for his or her brothers and sisters in Christ several things should be noted;
4 ¶ Charity suffereth long [we should be willing to be patient with our brothers and sisters in Christ], and is kind [making an effort to encourage]; charity envieth not [we should not envy the success or covet the material possessions of each other]; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up [we don’t place ourselves higher than each other in our own minds or brag], 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly [we abstain from any appearance of immorality], seeketh not her own [we’re not just out for ourselves], is not easily provoked [we carry a long fuse and don’t get angry quickly], thinketh no evil [don’t assume the worst about a brother or sister]; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity [we’re not happy when secret sin is revealed but saddened], but rejoiceth in the truth [we cling to the truth and delight in it]; 7 Beareth all things [we put up with a lot], believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
We are to do this in the fear of the Lord. Godly fear is defined for us in the Psalms as awe and Hebrews as reverence.
Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
Hebrews 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
If you revere the God who created you and stand in proper awe of who He is then submitting to each other will not be an odious thing to do as He has called you to do that very thing.