Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

What does "one another" mean in Eph. 5:21?

One of the differences between some completarians and, I think, all egalitarians is in how they interpret and/or apply the meaning of Greek allelois (English "one another") in Eph. 5:21. Egalitarians understand this word to refer to mutual relationships within the Body of Christ, that is, that each Christian is to submit to each other Christian, where submission is a voluntary act of deferring to the desires of another.

Some complementarians believe that "one another" is to be applied more restrictively. The narrowest interpretation of the word that I have read about, if I have understood the claim correctly, is that the word only applies to submission relationships which follow Eph. 5:21. According to the Greek text there is one such submission (Greek hupotasso) relationship, namely, that of wives to their husbands (5:22). Some complementarians believe that submission relationships following Eph. 5:21 include the "obey" (Greek hupakouo) relationships, namely, children to their parents (6:1) and slaves to their masters (6:5).

Some complementarians, again, if I understand them correctly, believe that "one another" does not refer to mutual submission at all, but only to any relationship where the Bible says that one person is to submit to another, such as those relationships described in my next paragraph.

As I have written previously, there are other passages in the Bible which also use the Greek word hupotasso ("submit"). In Col. 3:18, also, wives are told to submit to their husbands. In Heb. 13:17 we are told to both "obey" and "submit" to our spiritual (church) leaders. In James 4:7 we are told to "submit" to God.

Here are some questions that we can discuss:
  1. What relationships do you think "one another" refers to in Eph. 5:21?
  2. Do you understand "one another" to refer to mutual submission relationships (each Christian to each other Christian) or only unilateral submission relationships?
  3. Are any of the "one another" relationships dependent on the gender of any individuals?
  4. Are any of the "one another" relationships dependent on the social or employment status of any individuals?
  5. Do you understand loving service to someone, servant-heartedness toward someone, or obedience to someone to be forms of biblical submission to that person?
  6. If you believe that "one another" refers to how any Christian is to submit to any other Christian, in an appropriate situation, do you believe that that submission no longer applies to a man if he marries a woman to whom he previously had a mutual submission relationship, as he relates to her within their marriage?
I realize that these are difficult questions, perhaps some that you have never considered before. Don't feel like you need to answer each of them, if they are difficult for you. But if you can address some of them in comments to this post, that would be helpful for our discussions on this blog. As always, try to support your answers with evidence, especially evidence from the Bible.