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Submitting to one another
- Jacob Ninan
Not many people look at one way we can express submission within the Body of Christ as we work together. In simple terms this is to submit to others who have spiritual gifts and calling from God which are different from ours. This is not a case of Person A submitting to Person B in all things, but as much as Person B operates his gifts and ministry. Before Paul gave God's instructions for wives to submit to their husbands, children to their parents and servants to their masters he gave this common instruction to submit to one another (Ep.5:21).
The church (the universal collection of born again Christians) is characterised by various spiritual gifts that the Lord has given to different ones (Ep.4:11,12). The number of such gifts is only indicative and certainly much more than what is given in that verse (See 1Co.12:8-10; Ro.12:6-8). What we need is to submit to the operation of a gift when we recognise one. Though some have several gifts, no one has all, and so everyone has to recognise his own limitations and submit to others who have other gifts.
This is not very common to see; what we usually see is people all acting as if they do not need the others. An evangelist teaches, a teacher administers, an administrator prophesies, a prophet shepherds, a shepherd serves tables, etc.! It's a calamity, because each ministry requires a special gifting from God which may include associated natural abilities, and those without such a calling may make a mess of things by going outside their boundary. Think of one common example.
A Bible teacher is usually one who along with his special calling and burden from the Lord is also endowed with the ability to analyse things systematically, discern subtle differences in doctrinal interpretations, and explain things in simple terms using appropriate examples. When we see how the Lord chose Paul with a brilliant mind to bring out doctrinal explanations, and compare his writings with those of others we can notice the difference. It is not that the other writers did not teach at all, but they were able to recognise the special anointing the Lord had given Paul in this connection and submit to him (2Pe.3:15,16).
Imagine what happens when an evangelist comes up with new doctrines instead of using well-analysed material from teachers! If the evangelist recognises the teacher's gift and submit to him, while the teacher recognises the evangelist's gift for reaching out to the lost and supports him with appropriate teaching, there would be harmony. Both of them will submit to the administrator who plans and executes practical things in the church. Both of them learning from others with similar gifts is also a part of submission.
No local church has all gifts within, and submission will extend to other churches also as we recognise their gifts! We can invite others to minister to our local church in areas where they have something to give us. In this way each member will be able to give to the others and receive from them what the Lord has given for the growth of the Body (Ep.4:16).