Skip to content
Apr 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 12, 2015 – Ephesians 6:1-9

Cradled In God’s Will

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3]

Intro: Paul is helping his readers figure out the will of God (5:17)

Paul provides them with a general idea of God’s will
– but leaves it to them to work out the specifics
– the place to begin living God’s will is also the most difficult: our home
• in the New Testament, “household” refers to more than the immediate family
◦ it could include a steward who managed household affairs and other servants
• Paul groups people and addresses them according to their position in the family
◦ nevertheless, it is possible to hear a personal tone in his instructions

It is important to note Paul’s underlying optimism
– this is how the ideal Christian household functions
• the strong protect and provide for the weak, the older care for the youngest, etc.
• real life is more complicated than the simple outline given here
◦ and the dynamic relations and interactions of many families are often twisted
– an obvious weakness of endorsing hierarchy (in home, church, etc.) is the potential for abuse
• inflexible authoritarian structures can be used to legitimize oppression or violence
• roughly 90% of the population in the Roman empire were subject to exploitation
– we need to keep in mind that Paul covers the rule and not the exception

Children, obey your parents

I wish it was this simple

“Son, take out the trash.”
“Because the Bible says, ‘Children, obey your parents.'”
“Oh, it does? In that case, I’ll take out the trash right now.”

– can you imagine how much easier life would be?
• more peaceful, less stressful or painful?
• cooperation makes for smoother living than conflict or competition

The ancient Hebrew mind had a high regard for order and a strong aversion to chaos
– the desert and ocean symbolized chaos
• besides being unpredictable, they lacked the organization of village and city streets
• it was easy lose one’s bearings – bewildered is to be lost in the wild
– on the other hand, God is praised for the order discerned in creation
(for example, passages like Genesis chapter 1, Psalm 19 and Proverbs chapter 8)
• God’s division of light and darkness, seas and dry land, etc. set clear boundaries
◦ he reconciled opposites and gave them their own time and place
◦ he organized diverse elements and activities so life on earth is self-sustaining
– in the Hebrew Scriptures, wisdom consists of bringing this order into daily living
• and naturally this includes ordering a family’s home life
• we could imagine the well-ordered family operating with machine-like efficiency

Some translations do not include “in the Lord”
– I prefer to retain it, because it’s consistent with this whole section (e.g., 5:22, 25; 6:5, 7)
• also, it provides a context for the child’s obedience
◦ we live a certain way because we are “in the Lord” and live to him (Ro. 14:7-8)
• “right” is righteous, and it is a relational rather than moral term
◦ doing what is appropriate within specific relationships
– “Honor” – some of us have to mature into this
• parents do not have to earn this from children
◦ however, I do think it’s possible for parents to forfeit it
• “promise” – perhaps Paul thought children needed this sort of incentive

V. 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children . . .”

What are some ways dad’s push too far or too hard?
[members of Reflexion gave some very pertinent answers to this question]
– in a parallel passage, Paul says, “so they will not lose heart” – give up (Col. 3:21)
• don’t kill their spirit or destroy their self-confidence
◦ some parents get in a rut of always instructing and never listening
– discipline is different from punishment
• the goal of discipline is to train, to change a child’s thinking and behavior
• a downside of parental discipline and instruction:
◦ our parents disciplined us “as seemed best to them,” God disciplines us for our good”

Vv. 5-8, This is the most troubling part of passage

Paul isn’t endorsing slavery, but he doesn’t oppose it either
– we won’t tackle this now
• simply note that Paul’s concern was their immediate circumstances
◦ his instructions were relevant for his readers
• there is much here that is useful for us even outside a master/slave system
– “according to the flesh” – their external situation
◦ their masters did not define who they were – like Joseph in Egypt
◦ a master did not own the slave’s spirit or have any control over their inner life

What are the attitudes and actions of faithful service?
– List:

  1. fear and trembling – a figure of speech that indicates being seriously concerned
  2. sincerity (or “singleness”) of heart – wholehearted commitment
  3. not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers – we know what this is
    • this is the person who grabs the broom and sweeps whenever the boss shows up
  4. as slaves of Christ – a perspective that transcends their masters
  5. doing the will of God – this could definitely create tension for slaves
    • “How is what my master commands the will of God?”
    • nevertheless, this turns out to be the key to everything, as we’ll see
  6. With good will – good thoughts, well-intentioned
  7. as to the Lord (cf. v. 5, “as to Christ”) – an orientation that preserves our sanity
    • and our integrity
    • this is Daniel, opening his window to pray toward Jerusalem three times a day

“Knowing” promotes the slave’s willingness to serve their masters well
– they will be well rewarded by God, even if mistreated by their masters
– in John’s story of Jesus, knowing precedes–or is linked–to doing (Jn. 13:3, 17; 18:4; 19:28)

V. 9, “Masters” – same word translated “Lord”

We need to be aware of our “power positions” and how we use them
– for example, with those who serve us in restaurants, stores, airports, etc.
• Paul clearly understood that his authority was not for tearing people down
◦ it was for building them up (2 Cor. 13:10)
– when Paul tells masters “do the same”–i.e., as slaves–what does he mean?
• I am assuming he means they are to treat their slaves as Christ would–“as to the Lord”
• “and give up threatening” –fear is not healthiest way to motivate others

Gandhi, “Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”

“Knowing” is the point where slaves and masters come together
– the slaves know something about their service
• masters need to know something about the Master they share in common
◦ their heavenly Lord doesn’t recognize the difference between slaves and masters
◦ in his eyes, there is no special status ascribed to race, class, or gender

Conc: As I mentioned earlier, “doing will of God” is a key to interpreting this section

Growing up, I learned God’s will was:

  1. Something foreign to me – unrecognizable
  2. Very difficult, if not impossible
  3. Usually unpleasant – it usually entailed suffering
  4. Never what I would have wanted or chosen for myself

I am still unlearning that distorted perception and discovering God’s will is:

  1. The best and most rewarding  life I could hope to live
  2. Often wonderful – “joy unspeakable”
  3. Fulfilling, because it’s what I was created to be and to do (Ep. 2:10)

Jesus taught to pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven”

Helmut Thielicke wrote, “The petition in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s will be done has nothing whatever to do with the fatalism which capitulates to a superior impersonal fate. The one who prays knows to whom he yields and can yield–namely, that he is the one who will do better things for him than he himself can either desire or think (Romans 8:28).”

– it is possible that eventually our will disappears into God’s will
• so that we will and desire only what he wills and desires

Some have taken a radical approach to God’s will (cf. Ro. 13:1)
– we are more likely to hear of it from monks than preachers and teachers
• it is the idea that we accept everything that happens to us as God’s will
• that instead of trying to dodge suffering, we surrender to it
◦ thereby, everything becomes God’s means of working his will into our lives

Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in The Sacrament of the Present Moment asks how the present moment for Joseph and Mary became a “sacrament”? “What do they discern beneath the seemingly everyday events which occupy them? What is seen is similar to what happens to the rest of mankind. But what is unseen, that which faith discovers and unravels is nothing less than God fulfilling his mighty purpose.”
“No moment is trivial since each one contains a divine kingdom, and heavenly sustenance.”

◦ we greet every situation with acceptance regardless of its quality
◦ trusting God for all things makes the present moment an experience of the sacred

Abbot John Chapman wrote, “God’s Will always intends our good. God’s Will is carving us into the likeness of His Son.
“Every moment is the message of God’s Will; every external event, everything outside us, and even every involuntary thought and feeling within us is God’s own touch. We are living in touch with God. Everything we come in contact with, the whole of our daily circumstances, and all our interior responses, whether pleasures or pains, are God’s working. We are living in God–in God’s action, as a fish lives in the water. There is no question of trying to feel that God is here, or to complain of God being far, once He has taught us that we are bathed in Him, in His actions, in His will.”

– the lordship of Jesus enters and permeates our souls through God’s will
• hardship tells us God is near, even when it feels like he has abandoned us
◦ should my goal be to make life easier? or do I prefer that life makes me better?
• I’m learning to allow frustrations, annoyances and pain to be a trigger
◦ so my new habit is to open up to God
(rather than allowing negative emotions to make me feel close off)

Imagine a digital clock or watch that whenever you looked, it always read “NOW”
– constantly calling us back to awareness of God’s presence in this moment
• this is what we have in our core relationships do for us
◦ family, friendship and the workplace
• and it’s also what we have in our hardships and troubles

The Lord who is with us always, even unto the end of the age

Leave a comment