...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.Two questions arise: whether this should be attached to the preceding or following verses; and who the submission applies to. The second question is the more disputable one, though the former may have implications as how to best answer the latter.
In Ephesians Paul is instructing the believers in Christian behaviour—the Christian walk. Christians have new life in Christ therefore they are no longer to behave like the other Gentiles (Eph 4:17) and stop acting how they did prior to trusting Christ; put off their old self, put on their new self, change they way they think (Eph 4:22-24).
Interspersed in the following verses are several behaviours that need addressing: falsehood, unrighteous anger, theft, laziness, corrupt speech, bitterness, slander, covetness, sexual immorality. Concluding these Paul states,
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:15-18).There is debate as to whether one does these things in order to be filled, or whether one does these things because he is filled. Nevertheless, what does being filled with the Spirit look like? Paul lists the following:
- addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
- singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
- giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
- submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21)
Following this Paul talks to husbands and wives. He tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.The egalitarian interpretation suggests that the passage about submitting (Eph 5:21) applies to everyone in the church; all people within the church are to submit to each other. Thus it (Eph 5:21) is a summary of things to follow, with the subsequent discussion giving specific advice to husbands and wives based on areas they tend to struggle with. Wives are to actually submit to their husbands; that is the command to submit to each other (Eph 5:21) applies in marriage even as women tend to struggle to do so. Men are to love their wives (Eph 5:25, 28, 33) as well as submit (Eph 5:21). But the tendency for the man is not to love the woman in the same way that he loves himself (Eph 5:28). The woman is not specifically told to love as she generally does not find that difficult. The man is not specifically told to submit as he does this more easily.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
The complementarian interpretation would see the passage about submitting (Eph 5:21) as be a prelude to the subsequent examples. Verse 21 concludes the previous passage and Paul then gives some specific examples of submission. These are marriage, fatherhood and slavery. In these 3 situations the specific person in the submissive role is reminded that it is still appropriate to submit, even though they (wife, child, bondslave) have equal standing as believers in Christ.
Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21) therefore means that those who are in submissive roles are to submit.
- Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Eph 5:22)
- Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Eph 6:1)
- Bondslaves, obey your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, (Eph 6:5)
Some of the debate is over what is meant by "to one another" or "one to another" (Greek allelon) in verse 21. I do not think this can easily be resolved; it almost certainly cannot be if verse 21 is interpreted in isolation. The term "one to another" can mean both "all to all" and "some to all". "All to all" is meant in certain contexts, eg.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (2Co 13:12)See also Luk 24:14; Joh 13:34; 15:17; Other contexts can only mean "some to others", eg.
Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, (Rev 6:4)See also Joh 4:33; Act 26:31. Many other phrases could possibly be read as "all to all" though it would seem more likely that "some to others" is what occurs in any one specific situation, even if these roles are somewhat fluid and change in other specific situations, such as,
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1Pe 4:9).See also Gal 6:2; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; 1Th 5:11.
So the egalitarian interpretation reads this as a summary of what is to follow, and claim all are to submit to each other; the complementarian interpretation reads this as a prelude (and possibly as a conclusion of the preceding verses) and some categories of people are to submit to other categories of people.