God’s Delegated Authority:
A Message on Submission
By Matthew Black, Pastor
Text: Ephesians 5:16-21
Date: Sunday, February 15, 2009
Tabernacle Baptist Church
7020 Barrington Road
Hanover Park, Illinois 60133
Introduction: Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5:21. Our message this morning is entitled “God’s Delegated Authority: A Message on Submission”.
Let’s stand as we read Ephesians 5:18-21, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God”.
[Prayer for Guidance]
Paul says we need to submit “one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21). Remember I said the word “submit” is Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a miliary fashion under the command of a leader”. God is our general! We are all to serve where God has put us. Ranks in an army must function together. Without that you have disarray.
In chapters 5 and 6, Paul gives us God’s created order, and how we are all to function under authority. We are to submit to all the authorities we are under. He talks about 1. husband – wife, 2. parent – children, and slave – master relationships. We are all under authority. We are all called to submit to authority. We are to “maintain due subordination in the various relations of life” (Albert Barnes). Why is this? We are going to see that we are in a spiritual warfare, and we must be where the General puts us if we are to be at all effective.
Before we begin, let me also say that this submission is only possible through the filling of the Holy Spirit. You see, we are submitting to imperfect people! And so the signs of Spirit filling that we saw last week are found in Ephesians 5:18-21, Paul says, “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”, and here are the signs of Spirit-filling:
- Singing, verse 19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”.
- Sincere Thankfulness, verse 20, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
- Submission, verse 21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God”.
Submission is only possible through choosing to yield yourself to the authority of the Spirit of God and the Word of God!
We are going to look at three principles of submission this morning:
(1) Sovereignty—when we submit to rightful authorities we reflect God’s sovereignty in our lives.
(2) Stewardship—when we submit we are good stewards of all that God gives us. Submitting to those God has put over us is really submission to God.
(3) Spiritual warfare—In order to fight the spiritual battles as Christ’s Body, we must all be in correct battle formation. We must submit so that we can win!
I. So let’s first look at the principle of Sovereignty: God is the sovereign giver of all authority. All authority is delegated from Him! God’s in charge! Paul says we are to submit “one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21). What this means is that God delegates all authority—and we submit to Him by submitting to each other in all the various relations in life. As we work, as we live in married or single life, and church life, we ought to live in joyful submission to authority, for our submission is not ultimately to imperfect men, but to a perfect God. That’s why we can submit “one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21).
A. We are all under Divine Authority. Because we are created by God, we are all under His authority. We should serve one another because God told us to. We should do so in the fear of God. This is an easy concept. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Turn over to Jeremiah 18. There we are going to find out that God is our Maker. He made you. He is the potter, and we are the clay.
Jeremiah 18:1-6, “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
God is in charge! He has the right to make us and place us in whatever role he pleases. He tells us to submit to one another in fear of Him. We are all going to stand before Him very soon. Whether you are male or female, a company owner or an employee, married or single, below average or above average, whatever your ethnicity, whatever country you were born in, God is absolutely in control of it all. Therefore we are under His authority.
B. We are all under Human Authority. Paul says in Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God”. We are all to live under the control human authorities in obedience. What this verse is teaching is that our obedience to human authorities reflects our obedience to God. All human authorities are delegated by God’s authority. None of us has authority in and of ourselves. All human authority ultimately reflects God’s authority.
Now we really need to hear this. Why? Because we live in a broken world, and all human authority is horribly flawed. Can anyone here attest to that? God tells us to submit to all the various authorities over us in fear to Him!
1. Authority structure within the Godhead. We see the perfect example of submission within the Trinity. Each member of the Trinity is co-equal in power and glory, and yet we see that they are submissive to each other.
§ Christ on earth submitted to the Father in all things. Jesus said in John 8:29, “I do always those things that please him [the Father].” John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. Christ submitted Himself to all the authorities on earth: his family authority, ecclesiastical authority, and to the government.
§ The Spirit submits Himself to both the Father and the Son and brings glory to both the father and the Son. The Spirit of God does not promote Himself, but exalts Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 16:13-14, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come…he shall not speak of himself…He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
When we look at submitting to the authorities under us, we are reflecting God’s nature and attributes. When Paul says in Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” because in doing so, we are reflecting God!
When God created the world, he ordained the three main human institutions that would carry His authority: family, government, and the church. The basic unit of all authority is the family. We see an order in God’s creation that flows into the government and into the church.
We are only happy when we live within the limits of God’s created order of his ordained authorities.
Objection: Some will say of this submission, “That is so restricting! How unreasonable to say that a Christian must live under authority”. Actually, it is freeing—when you live under God’s created order, you will thrive and you will be the happiest.
Illustration: Those that refuse to live under authority are like a train that goes bouncing across the field off the track. You might think it is free, but it is being destroyed. A train is designed for train tracks. It is free only when it is confined to the track. Then it runs smoothly and efficiently, because that was the way that its maker intended for it to run. It needs to be on the track, structured by the track, to run properly. 
The safest place for a train is on the tracks. In the same way, the safest place for every person on planet earth is to learn to live under the confines of God’s created order of His ordained authority. This is God’s design, and it reflects His person. You will prosper in this way!
Transition: As I said, when God created the world, he ordained the three main human institutions that would carry His authority: family, government, and the church. The basic unit of all authority is the family.
The Bible says within the context of all humanity, we need to be “submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21). The word “submit” is Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a miliary fashion under the command of a leader”.
2. We are all subject to Family authority. Within the family Paul gives us two relationships: husband and wife, and parents to their children.
§ Let’s look first at the Husband-Wife relationship: God’s created order begins with the family. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). In Ephesians 5:22-25, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. Why must we be sure to keep God’s created order? Verse 32-33, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband”. We are representing something awesome when we live according to this standard. We are reflecting Christ’s love for the church, and the church’s submission to Christ.
Peter says it this way in 1 Peter 3:4-6: “let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement”. It is so important to keep within God’s created order. If you mess with how God designed all of us to function, you will get disaster!
Illustration: When you take the bird out of the sky and swim the bird, you kill the bird. When you take the dog off the leash and drop him from the sky, you kill the dog. When you take the fish out of the water and walk the fish, you kill the fish. So the first humans, Adam and Eve, when they departed from the design of their maker, they destroyed themselves (and all after them). What was the result of the fall? The corrupt desires now wanted to rebel against God’s design.
Explanation: Look at Genesis 3:16. As a consequence of Eve’s disobedience and her failure to consult her husband about Satan’s temptation, God told her:“thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” This is one of the results of the fall that brings strife in marriage. One of the possible interpretations of this verse is that the woman’s desire will be for her husband’s place.
Application: Ladies, you are going to have a natural desire to chafe under your husband’s authority. You want to take control. You may be smarter than him. You may have better ideas than he. You must resist anything that takes the leadership role in the home. He is not perfect, but you ought to submit to him. Respect and honor him in his abilities and achievements—notice how hard he works, how faithfully he comes home, how patient he is with the kids.
1 Corinthians 11:8-9 "for man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man”. A woman’s role is always complementary.
Application: Men, you have the greatest responsibility of all. Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. You are not to abuse your authority by domineering over your wife. You are to be gentle. As Peter says: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered”. (1 Peter 3:6).
How can you do this? You need to communicate love and security. Her security is your top priority. You are to lover by providing for all her needs, protecting her, cherishing her, and sacrificing for her as Christ did for the church.
§ Children: Paul deals with this very thing by way of application. Later in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Are parents flawed? Yes! This is why we children need to trust God and submit to their parents. Will parents always do everything perfectly? No!
Yet children are to submit to mom and dad! We all begin life under the fifth commandment. “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). It is God that fills the womb with a child. Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
Paul gives the warning not to abuse your power as a father and mother. He says in Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Be very careful parents how you use your authority. You are to raise your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. You are neither a door mat nor a drill sergeant. You are firm and loving. You must reflect commitment to the Lord and commitment to your children.
3. We should all subject to Ecclesiastical authority. When we are saved, God does not allow us to be a “lone ranger”. We are to be under the authority of a local church and its elders. God has ordained various officers in the church, and He has delegated His authority to them. Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”.
He says in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
He says back in verse 7 of Hebrews 13, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
Remember what happened in the Old Testament with God’s people. The Lord had put Samuel as a judge over the people, and we read in 1 Samuel 8:19, “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us”. And God gave them a king that, without God’s mercy in sending David, would have destroyed the entire nation.
Are leaders perfect? No! But they are put in place by God. They are accountable to the congregation, but they have the place of God’s delegated authority to lead the people of God. The healthy church is one where Spirit-filled leadership leads a Spirit-filled congregation. Anything less than this is destructive.
Application: Are you under the authority of a local church? If not, as a Christian, you are a wandering sheep and out of step with God’s order. If you are a believer you need to be an active, functioning part of a local church. If this church is not it, we encourage you to find a faithful church to be a part of and to be accountable to.
4. We are all subject to Government authority. Christians should pay taxes. Christians should obey the speed limit. Christians should obey all the laws of the land as long as they do not contradict God’s Law. There are two key passages we need to look at: 1 Peter 2 and Romans 13.
§ Peter says: 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…”
§ Paul says: Romans 13:1-2, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation”.
5. Employment authority. Ephesians was written in a day when 50% of the population were slaves. Even in this, Paul says that God has a created order. We would relate to it better in our day as the employer-employee relationship. Paul says in Ephesians 6:5-8 that servants are to work for their employer as “to the Lord”. Verse 5, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men”.
Application: When you go to work, you are under God’s delegated authority. You are working for God!
II. The principle of Stewardship: All authority is delegated by God, so we are all responsible to use our authority for Him. What is stewardship? It is “managing that which belongs to another.”
A. God owns it all. Everything we have is from God, including our place in life. In your place in life, very likely you have people over you and people under you. Where ever you find yourself is given as a stewardship from God. If you are in a place of authority, you need to use your authority wisely. It is ultimately not your authority. It has been given to you by God. God will very soon bring you to account as to how you used your authority.
B. We are all managers of God’s gifts. 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” We all have stewardship in some position. We must never abuse our authority. Paul says in Ephesians 5:21, we are to submit “one to another in the fear of God”. We must submit for God’s sake. This implies, that those who are in authority are not to abuse their authority.
§ Husband-Wife: Paul gives several warnings in Ephesians 5-6 that we are not to abuse our authority. Husbands are to have due respect from their wife, but he gives the husband a command that is out of this world in verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. You have authority, but wield it gently. Peter says, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered”. (1 Peter 3:6).
§ Parent-Child: Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.
§ Employer-Employee: “And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven…” (Ephesians 6:9).
We all have different skills and abilities. Since our skills and abilities differ, we are not called to do things as good as “so and so”. We are called to do the very best with what God gives us. If God has gifted you to be a leader, then you should be the best leader you can be. If God made you to be a servant and a follower, then you should serve and follow as best you possibly can.
We manage everything—our time, our finances, our health, our service, and OUR AUTHORITY and our SUBMISSION for Christ.
III. Finally, I want us to look at the principle of Spiritual Warfare. Paul says we need to submit “one to another in the fear of God” (verse 21). Remember I said the word “submit” is Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a miliary fashion under the command of a leader”. God is our general! We are all to serve where God has put us. Ranks in an army must function together. Without that you have disarray.
Application: We are in a spiritual battle, and we must all be in the proper formation. We need to be in the right place at the right time. Wife, it is imperative that you submit to your husband. Children it is imperative that you submit to your parents.
Here we see that if our relationships are not right, if we are not under God’s created order, we are going to have serious spiritual problems in our life. Notice that Spirit filling and Submission head right into spiritual warfare. Some of you are losing the battle against sin because you are not Spirit filled. You doubt if Jesus can fill you like your sin fills you.
Conclusion: God designed us all to be under authority. Human beings were born/designed to live under authority. Each person is given a place by God. He puts various people in authority, and to prosper, we must learn to function under that authority. It is God’s design. We need to function in mutual submission one to another. This is God’s created order. If we change it, we will destroy our lives and our society. Again, this is God’s design. When the baby fish (if we can call it that) is born from the mama fish, the baby fish is designed to swim. Birds are designed to fly. Catepillars are designed to crawl. Human beings were born/designed to live under authority. When we all live under God’s created order, submitting one to another, we will prosper. If not, we will destroy our selves and our society. We see what taking mothers out of the home and putting them to work is doing to our children. We see what husbands being submissive to wives is doing to our families. We must stay within God’s created order and submit “one to another in the fear of God”. This is God’s design.
 Jay Adams. Godliness through Discipline (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1972), 22-23.
 James Strong: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), G5293.