There’s no mistake in the order of this passage: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 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.” (Eph 5:15-21)
We are reminded of who we are and how we are supposed to be in the world: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16) The phrase used, “the days are evil” should communicate to us a sense of urgency because of evil’s pervasiveness, and we’re reminded not to conform to the evil in this world (Rom 12:2).
We are told to “not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (v 17), and the only way to know His will is to spend time in His Word and prayerfully ask that He reveal His will to us. We are warned, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (v 18). If we choose to be diverted from God’s Word and His Spirit by drinking to the point of drunkenness, then we’re choosing to purposely disobey Him, which will most likely make us do foolish things–which is not in the Lord’s will.
However, when we are filled with the Spirit, we can do His will of “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” (vv 19-20). And in our attitude of gratitude, we are able to continue in His will of “be[ing] subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (v 21). Mutual submission to one another is another way we can express being filled with the Spirit.
The Lord made us all different, with different tasks as part of the whole–the church as members of Christ’s body of believers. We are each unique, and we all bring something different, a unique perspective. So it is in unity, and in fear and reverence to the Lord that we are to mutually submit to one another. “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5)
God may reveal to one who is ready to hear that which He hasn’t yet revealed to another, which is the meaning of “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Prov 27:17) It is why we need to be part of a body of believers and not on our own.
Mutual submission stands in stark contrast with worldly wisdom. In business, the principle is often taught to either put ourselves first, or to help others so that you can benefit. Yet Paul offers a better and higher way, noting that our service to others is service to the Lord. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). This is an important part of following the example of Christ, who submitted to the will of the Father and gave Himself as a sacrifice for us.