Weds 13th September - Ephesians 6:1-9
Meditation on Ephesians 6:1-9
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.
Paul starts in chapter 6 where he left off at the end of chapter 5, where he wrote about husband / wife relationships. How relevant in our day to be reminded of that. Now, in chapter 6, he writes about family relationships – children / parents – and work relationships – slaves / masters.
- CHILDREN AND PARENTS Verses 1-4
J B Philips translates these verses as: ‘Children, the right thing for you to do is to obey your parents as those whom God has set over you. The first commandment to contain a promise was: ‘Honour your father and your mother, that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth’.
But this is a two-way relationship – children towards parents and parents towards children.
‘ Fathers, don’t over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment.’
The command for children to obey their parents is seen across all societies – it is the expected standard behaviour in all homes – not just Christian homes.
Note how Paul describes such a breakdown in relationships – Romans 1:28-30. ‘…God gave them over to a depraved mind so that they do what ought not to be done……they disobey their parents…’
To Timothy, Paul writes, ‘…But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be…disobedient to their parents.’ 2 Timoth 3:1-2.
To obey your parents is to uphold the natural law.
To honour your parents is to up hold the divine law – cf. Exodus 20:12
The promise to those who obeyed and honoured their parents would have referred to the Promised Land experiences back in Exodus.
Paul moves away from ‘you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you’ to ‘that you may enjoy long life on the earth’.
Paul is reinforcing the importance of stable family life in terms of children towards their parents.
But – verse 4 is often overlooked. This is addressed to all parents but in those days, especially fathers.
Fathers ruled, sometimes with a rod of iron!
Fathers exercised supreme authority over the whole family.
William Barclay says: ‘A Roman father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves, (there’s a thought!!!), he could make them work in the fields, even in chains, he could take the law into his own hands and punish as he liked, he could even inflict the death penalty on his child.’
Pual writes about negatives and positives.
Negatives – do NOT exasperate your children
Positives – DO bring them up in the training of the Lord
DO bring them up in the instruction of the Lord.
We need to pray for our families.
- SLAVES AND MASTERS Verses 5-9
William Barclay in his commentary on Ephesians says, ‘it has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60 million slaves’.
John Stott in his commentary on Ephesians says
, ‘they constituted the work force and included, not only domestic servants and manual labourers, but educated people as well, like doctors, teachers and administrators. Slaves could be inherited or purchased, or acquired in settlement of bad debt and prisoners of war commonly became slaves. Nobody queried or challenged the arrangement.’
Slaves, then, were given clear instructions as to how to live and behave – obedience, sincerity and wholeheartedness.
So today, these qualities are expected in the workplace in response to the employer.
Notice that in each of the verses referring to slaves, the Lord Jesus is mentioned.
Here is the focus:
- Obey – JUST AS YOU WOULD OBEY CHRIST.
- As slaves of Christ – DOING THE WILL OF GOD FROM YOUR HEART.
- Serve wholeheartedly – AS IF YOU WERE SERVING THE LORD, NOT PEOPLE.
- You know – THE LORD WILL REWARD EACH ONE FOR WHATEVER GOOD THEY DO.
These same principles should be applied in today’s workforce situations.
BUT – verse 9 gives us the balancing instruction. As it was for slave owners then, so now for employers. ‘TREAT YOUR SLAVES (your employees) IN THE SAME WAY.
DON’T THREATEN THEM.
(italics are mine)
Paul reminds his readers who their Master is – Jesus, who is in heaven.
Remember, He has no favourites.
All these relationships come back to 5:21 – ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’.
It is to Him that we owe everything.
God help us in all our relationships to submit to each other as we submit to Him.