When gathering with the church, have you ever had a discussion about grammar and structure in Scripture? I have… several times. And, the last time this happened was last Sunday when we were studying Ephesians 5.
I know what you’re thinking… “How can a discussion about grammar and sentence structure be edifying to the church?” Well, believe it or not, it can be. In fact, in some cases, it’s important to discuss grammar and sentence structure in order to understand Scripture.
But, in this particular case, we were looking at Ephesians 5:22-33. Of course, this is a very famous passage because everyone wants to argue about what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. (Although, I’ve found it strange that there are very few arguments about what it means for a husband to love his wife… and why there are few – if any – websites or “ministries” devoted to the husband loving the wife. But, I guess that’s a question for another day.)
At one point, I mentioned that Ephesians 5:22 does not include a verb, and that it follows directly from Ephesians 5:21. I also mentioned that Ephesians 5:21 is a participial phrase that is part of the sentence that begins in Ephesians 5:18. In other words, “wives submit to your own husbands” is part of the description of “submitting to one another” which is part of the command “be filled with the Spirit.”
Let’s take this the other way: When Paul writes, “Be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18), he then gives 4 results (at least, I think they are results of being filled with the Spirit – but that’s actually another grammatical question): 1) addressing one another… (Ephesians 5:19a), 2) singing and making melody (Ephesians 5:19b), 3) giving thanks (Ephesians 5:20), and 4) submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21).
Then, as part of “submitting to one another,” Paul next addresses wives and instructs them to submit to their own husbands as an example (Ephesians 5:22). So, whatever it means to submit to one another, and whatever it means for wives to submit to their husbands (and, yes, we discussed this), it all begins with being filled with the Spirit. (By the way, I didn’t say all of that on Sunday morning, but other people did bring up different grammatical aspects of this passage based on the relationship between Ephesians 5:18, Ephesians 5:21, and Ephesians 5:22.)
What’s interesting is that after we talked about this and continued to the end of the chapter. A few people later wanted to talk about it again. One of the questions that was often brought up is this one: What does it mean that addressing, singing, giving thanks, and submitting all follow from being filled with the Spirit?
So a grammatical / structural question not only led to understanding Scripture better, it also led immediately to encouraging one another about being filled with the Spirit. Plus, it puts the whole discussion about husbands / wives, parents / children, and masters / slaves in a completely different light… because it all begins with being filled with the Spirit.