“speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19–21, NASB95)
In verse 18 Paul instructed us to be filled with the Spirit. What we have here are some of the markers of how being filled with the Spirit works in our lives. Because of the fruit of the Spirit being evident in us, we respond to others in ways reflective of that fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, NASB95) These are the things that the Spirit works in us as we walk in step with the Spirit. So, knowing the love of God we walk in His joy before others leading to us singing His praises. In our hearts there is life and this life springs forth in joyful song. These joy-filled words may be passages from His Word, lyrics written by others, or the things which we have learned of Him. Much has been said about what might be meant by the three various forms of speaking given here, but in a nutshell what we really see is that in all areas of our lives and from everything we know of Him and His goodness we let it flow out to others. It pictures excitement in knowing God and confidence in trusting Him in all things. This is even true when things get tough as we are enabled to take our eyes off of the size of our situation and focus on the size and faithfulness of our God.
Our hearts overflow from our having been united with God in Christ who gave Himself for us and sits as our intercessor and the head of His body—the church. Our praise springs from the joy in our hearts and out thankfulness to God. Our hearts are filled as we turn aside the worries over situations of all sizes and giving thanks to God for His firm hand holding us and those we love in every single one of those situations. Nothing catches Him by surprise or is outside of His powerful hands. Nothing if beyond His concern, and He knows the small things just as fully as the big. He has promised to be faithful and He has proven Himself immensely faithful. Because we are in Christ and His Spirit is in us we can rejoice and sing His praises with thankful hearts and heartfelt words.
By speaking and singing His praises and giving thanks before others we encourage them as well. We encourage them to take their own burdens and lay them on Him. We encourage them to set aside their hurts and trust Him to heal and protect. We encourage them to walk closely with the same Spirit and know the same joy even in the greatest trial. I find it amazing to think of a number of the great hymns of the church that are in reality songs of hope and praise in the midst or aftermath of great trouble. These are things I can easily connect with because, while I may not have experienced things exactly as the author, I have experienced things that have hurt. Praise heals hurt as we turn these things over to our infinitely good and loving Father and realize the comfort of His Spirit in us.
God loves us so much that the Father sent the Son to bring us into an eternal relationship with Him and to seal us with His Spirit as our Helper until that time that we enter His presence forever. This is what unites us with God, and it is what unites us with one another. We share a common bond in our singular Savior as we worship our God who is One—Father, Son, and Spirit.
Our passage for today ends with verse 21, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” When we take our eyes off of the priority of ourselves and turn our eyes on Christ and join with one another in that praise we begin to recognize others and their needs. Other people become a priority, and when they become a priority our agendas lessen in the face of the Spirit’s leading and the reality of their needs.
Submitting or being subject to one another reflects a voluntary attitude of coming under. This can be done in a variety of ways. One of them, of course, is submitting to our employers and their directives for the hours that we are on their clocks. It is seen in the wife, who is a joint heir with her husband in Christ, coming under his headship in the home as we will see in the next verses. Neither of these relationships of submission indicates anything lesser or greater in the character or value of either person.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is and always has been fully God. Yet, we read that He humbled Himself by taking on the form of man to obey the Father and give Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. This is how God in His fullness determined it should be, and Jesus, as part of that fullness as the Son, submitted Himself in full agreement with the Father to do the Father’s will. This is the example we are given, and it is in light of this example that we are called even to submit ourselves to others who are fallible as we trust our God who is infallible. We are to live our lives with attitudes and actions of mutual submission recognizing Who brought us together as one and Who is working in us to accomplish His will.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NASB95) John MacArthur in his study Bible on this wrote, “…every spirit-filled Christian is to be a humble, submissive Christian. This is foundational to all the relationships….”