Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
I. In the first place, observe the NECESSITY of the precept. Pride is the great besetting sin of our fallen nature. In our unregenerate state it rules, reigns, and tyrannises; and in our regenerate state, it still harasses, entangles, and tempts us in all we do. Some are proud of their learning, and some of their ignorance. Some are proud of their intellect, and some of their stupidity. Behold then, the necessity of the precept. What is it leads men, beloved, to that insubordination as to ranks in society, that is so very manifest in the present day? What is it leads men to pull down their superiors? What makes men behave so unsuitably to their equals? What makes men look down so on their inferiors? It is the pride of our hearts.
II. But observe, secondly, there is not only a necessity for this precept, but there is an especial SUITABLENESS in it. These are addressed as servants of Christ. What a Master! Why, His whole life was one submission; it was subjection to the work and will of God. Observe, even in His intercession, in His exaltation at the right hand of God, it is according to the will of God. And let me remark this one thing more; not only was our Lord one exhibition of subjection to God His Father, but He was subject unto His parents. More than that, He was subject in a sense to His very disciples. Look into that twenty-second chapter of Luke's Gospel. Oh! blessed truth! may we have grace to learn it out! "There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth."
III. Now see the EXTENT of the precept. Many seem to say that it means submission to the "powers that be" — those in authority, them that have the rule. But that is not the meaning of this passage; and I cannot see any reason to think so for one moment. It takes it in, certainly; it necessarily includes submission to those who are above us; to him who is our superior in age, our superior in position in the Church, our superior in gifts, or our superior in grace. It takes in submission from the wife to the husband; from the children to the parent; and from the servant to the master. But it includes more; for it includes the duty of submission on every part. It is mutual; it is universal; it not only belongs to one party, but it belongs to all; so that each one of God's children shall feel the solemn obligation there is for subjection to those around him. What! does this break in on the different ranks of men? By no means. Does this bring the world into confusion? Masters still remain masters; servants still remain servants. Still, the command — "be subject to the powers that be," "give honour to him to whom honour is due," is a precept for us to obey. Here, then, we have to consider the respectful and affectionate bearing ordered and enjoined by this portion of God's Word to all, without distinction; to those our superiors, to those our equals, and to those who we think beneath us. But observe, why is it added, "in the fear of God"? Is not this a motive? Is not self-consideration enough to give us a motive? This man has many infirmities, manifest infirmities; but how little do I know how much grace he receives from the Lord, hour by hour. Perhaps I should take my place at his feet, instead of placing him at my feet. How little do I know how soon he may have to bear my infirmities? How soon may he have to take up my burden! My dear hearers, yet the great motive here is, submitting "in the fear of God." All these things are motives; yet this motive is especially remarked — "in the fear of God" — as under His eye; remembering, "Thou God seest me."
(J.H. Evans, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.