21 April 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (6:1-6:9)

Ephesians 6:1-9

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.


The topic of submission is not one that the world is quick to accept these days. We are told that submitting to someone is a sign of weakness. That we are to be our own boss. And that old-fashioned notion of wives submitting to their husbands! Oh, how outdated and anachronistic! Why, if that’s what we want, why not just go back to caveman days and club a woman over the head and drag her back to the cave? Why not chain a woman to the stove and keep her pregnant?

But this is not Paul’s motive. He is not chauvinistic or misogynistic, as some people like to claim he was. This is simply the natural order of things. God made man first, then woman. In fact, He made woman from man, and He made woman for the man. And we saw last time how much damage this whole notion of turning the family unit upside-down and telling women that even though their husbands love them and provide for them and care for them—that if the woman doesn’t go out and work that she is nothing—how much damage this kind of screwed-up thinking has caused in this country. And we are exporting it to other countries as well.

Today, we’re going to look at some other types of submission. And these are two more areas where the world is saying submission is optional. We’re going to look at why children should submit to their parents, and workers to their bosses. These are two classes of people who should be the first to submit to those over them, as they depend on them for their sustenance. Children depend on their parents to provide food and shelter for them. Workers depend on their bosses for their paycheck.

Now, before we begin, let me just point one thing out. Paul uses the relationship between not just workers and bosses, but slaves and masters. This is one of those places where people really don’t like what the Bible says. They ask, “Why doesn’t the Bible condemn slavery.” This is a different type of slavery than we are familiar with. This is a voluntary type of slavery, and we’ll see more about that later. Also, the Bible does indeed condemn the type of slavery that was practiced in this country, and we’ll look at that also.

Children, obey your parents… What do we see when we turn on the television, or watch a movie? When we find a program that revolves around a family with teenage children, what is the norm? Nowadays, they focus on rich kids, who have basically no rules, and who are allowed to go out and party and drink with no repercussions. Or, we get the teen who is rebelling against his or her parents, and the child is always portrayed in the sensitive light, and the parents always come to the realization that they are in the wrong, and they should go ahead and let their 14-year-old daughter sleep with the college frat guy. And children are taught that that is the kind of life they should have, and parents are guilted into letting their children have that kind of life.

But, this is what Satan wants. What better way to bring chaos to the church than to convince children that they deserve to have everything handed to them, and to be able to do whatever they want? Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many parents who strive and work to develop godly children, and despite their best efforts, these children go astray. But this command isn't written to the parents. It is written to the children. And it is a command. If we look back throughout these last few chapters, we find that almost all of the verbs that dictate some kind of action on our part are in the imperative. And here we have a command to children that they are to obey their parents.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord… So what does that last little phrase mean? “In the Lord.” Does it mean that the child should obey their parents only if that parent knows the Lord? Or does it mean something more Catholic, that we are to obey the one they call “Holy Father?” Well, the answer is “neither.” The little Greek word εν (en) has a variety of meanings, such as “in, by, with” and many others. It always denotes a purpose, either referring to a purpose that causes the obedience, or a purpose that results from obedience. From Paul’s next words, we see that it means both. The command for children to obey their parents “in the Lord” means that this is something the Lord Himself has commanded. And the results of such obedience are far greater and more long-lasting than the fruits of disobedience. for this is right.

“Honor your father and mother,”
This is more than just Paul suggesting that children toe their parents’ line. This is one of the Ten Commandments. In fact, a child that disobeyed and dishonored their parents in the Old Testament was subject to death. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Solomon, many times in Proverbs, warns about rebellious and foolish children. Now, does this mean that if our child throws a temper tantrum that we should take and stone him to death? OK, that’s not even a question. Of course not. But when Paul reintroduces this verse from Exodus, he does so, not merely as a warning against unruliness, but also to show the promise of God (which are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’).

…which is the first commandment with promise… why does God give us commandments? Is it so He can just rule over us with an iron fist? No (although He will rule one day with an iron rod). He gives us commandments so that we may know how to please Him, and how to live in peace with one another. When He tells us to not murder, isn't this a good indication that we should value another person’s life? That no matter how mad we may be at somebody, that we should not be so angry that we execute the judgment that belongs to God alone? When He commands us to not steal, is He not saying that He has given us enough, and we should not seek to take away from someone else that which God has given to them? Yet here, Paul reminds us that the command to obey our parents was given to us—not only so we could respect each other, and (above all else) to love YHVH our God with all of our heart soul and mind. But God also gave us this commandment with a promise.

“that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Now, this does not only refer to the fact that if you obeyed your parents you would not be stoned to death. Because, well, that doesn’t happen anymore. So what is it that disobedience to parents would cause to shorten our lives? Well, suppose I told my son that if I gave him the keys to the car, he wasn’t to drive over the speed limit. But, he decides to take a few of his buddies for a drive down a hilly, curvy back road at 80 MPH. How much of him—or the car—is going to be left? Or, even with younger children. If I tell my kids not to play in the road because they may get hit by a car, and they do it anyway, how long will it be before a car comes along? When children heed the words of parents that are seeking to prolong their children’s lives, they will live much longer.

Now, not only does this honoring of father and mother have to do with obeying them. It also has to do with giving them their proper honor. And really, obedience can only come about when the child realizes that they are not at the top of the pecking order. Until a child realizes that their parents know a heck of a lot more than they do, they will not respect the parent enough to submit to their authority.

And is this not true of all people? We do not realize—nor do we want to see—that God is so much greater than us. We want to be God. We want the world to run on our schedule, we want the world to take care of our needs first, we want the world to cater to our every whim. We do not—in our natural, unregenerated condition—have any desire to put ourselves under the rule and authority of anybody—and especially not God. Because if we did we would have to deny ourselves of all those really neat things we like so much—sex, drinking, pornography. So what do we get? Heart disease, stroke, cancer, AIDS. But these really are not our fault. When things like these start to happen, it’s never our fault. It must be the government, or big business or the power lines or the nuclear plant. Or Ronald Reagan.

Time to grab my soapbox here. What was it we kept hearing over and over and over again when the AIDS epidemic began to mushroom? It was Ronald Reagan’s fault. Because, you see, Reagan was down in his super-duper-top-secret laboratory cranking out gallons of the AIDS virus to spread through the air ducts in gay bars and bathhouses. Or maybe it was Ronald Reagan who was going out and sleeping around with men he didn’t know. See, this is what happens when we don’t submit to our parents. We get everything we want. Then when something bad happens as a result of getting what we want, we blame somebody. But if children obey their parents, they will see that their mom and dad are really looking out for them, and they will have long years in this life.

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Just as Paul did not let husbands off the hook after commanding their wives to submit, he does not let parents off easy, either. Because he lays the burden of training their children upon their shoulders. How many parents these days are more than happy to let the church raise their kids. Now, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. But how many parents just don’t want to be bothered with training their kids to be godly adults. This does not mean that you break out the whoopin’ stick because your two-year-old spills his milk or talks back. Do not bring them up to hate you. If you were to ever read the story of Dave Pelzer, the man who wrote the book “The Child Called ‘It’” I believe you would have a better appreciation of how much of a role you play in your child’s adult years. Because if you just tell your children “Because I said so!” every time they ask why they have to do something, and beat them when they don’t, you will wind up with a child that will not respect any authority when they get older. In fact, they will hate everything to do with any kind of authority. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are parents who have done everything to teach their children properly, and they didn’t turn out the way they were raised. That should not be a hindrance to mothers and fathers doing their job. If they do their best to do as they are commanded by God, then God will honor them.

Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ… Now, this is the part where people get mixed up. This is one of those places where if we’re not careful, it can lead to some wrong ideas. Back when slavery was legal in this country, slave owners would use this verse to keep their slaves in line. Nowadays, those who cast a skeptical eye at the Bible use this verse to make it sound like the Bible condones slavery—1860’s American-type slavery, that is. But both of these groups miss the mark by an ocean.

The word “bondservant” is from the Greek word δουλος (doulos). And while “bondservant” isn't really the best translation of the word, it is much better than the KJV’s “servant.” The NASB, ESV, NLT (and even the NIV) actually get the word right. The word means “slave.” The word δουλος refers to one who is in the total service of another, many times voluntarily. Many times a person submitted to becoming a δουλος because they owed a debt they could not pay. And far from being thrown into a cramped shack with little or no food and driven by bullwhips, many times a δουλος was treated pretty well. It wasn’t the best life one could hope for, but it was certainly better than we envision it.

not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. How many times have you worked with someone who was never happy with what they were getting paid? Who worked a lot of hours, got paid nicely for it, but it still wasn’t enough? So they would filch a little bit here or there, because, they say, “I deserve it! I put in a lot of hours, I deserve more than just this paycheck!” There are many in the kingdom who are like that. But more about them later. When that person signed on at such and such a wage, it was good enough then. But now it’s not. so they slack through half the day, putting in as little as they can and still get by. When the boss is around, they are “Busy! Busy! Busy!” When the boss is gone, what do they do? Play solitaire on the computer, talk on the phone, hang out in the break room.

Paul is commanding servants to do the best job they can all the while they are working. Because when we belong to Christ, every part of us belongs to Him. Likewise when we have a boss above us. and if we are Christ’s, then shouldn’t we see ourselves as ambassadors for Christ, and be more honest and more joyful than the world who has no hope? The way we submit to our bosses is a direct reflection on how much we submit to God.

Like I said before, there are some in the kingdom who think they deserve a little bit more because they “did more for God.” They forget the parable of the workers in Matthew 20:1-16. The ones who were there all day wanted more than the ones hired last, even though they had agreed to work for a denarius (a day’s wage). When we set out to do work for the kingdom, we should always remember not to do it with the intent of getting more than someone else. We should just be thankful that we were privileged enough to be called to such work. Let God decides who gets how much. Else why do you do the work?

But he doesn’t let bosses off the hook either. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

As far as the Bible “condoning” slavery—again, many people are looking through the periscope of American history. You see, the Bible does indeed deal with those who take men by force to be slaves. In 1st Timothy 1:9-10 (KJV), Paul says that the law was not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient…murderers…profane…for menstealers. The Greek is ανδραποδιστες (andrapodistes). It means “a slave-dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer; of one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery; of one who steals the slaves of others and sells them.” Time does not permit me to go into all the protections that were afforded slaves in the Law of Moses. Does one think Jesus came to make men even more servile to other men in such a way? God forbid!

And right here, Paul tells masters to deal patiently with their slaves, to not beat them because God is watching. And I dare say, although Simon LaGree was not a real man—if he were, I would hate to be where he is now. When someone is under your control, it is really easy to strike them and kill them for messing up or for refusing to work. But Paul is telling them to be strong by not striking those blows. The people who say that the Bible did not condemn slavery really need to get their heads out of the sand, and into the Bible. It’s amazing how many people just absolutely know everything that is in here—although they will admit they have never read it.

Next week we begin a look at the armor of God. I have already gone through it once, but I was still early in my ministry, and I do not believe I gave it its proper diligence.

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