Main Text: Ephesians 6:1-9
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
This section positions our thoughts and motivations beyond the Golden Rule of “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12) and instead compels us as Christians to consider an additional barometer for evaluating our relationships as Christians, “do unto others as you would do unto the Lord.”
As Paul is addressing the church in Ephesus, he has taken so much time to carefully and methodically build an understanding in their minds of who they are in Christ. He has spoken so explicitly to their new identity as a people. They were once orphans, that now are adopted into a loving family. They were once dead people that God has awakened to life. They were once stumbling blindly in the depths of darkness and God has overwhelmed their optic nerves with his marvelous light. God has done this work in their hearts and because of this, there is an awareness that Paul is drawing their attention to as he highlights various aspects of their life that they may have compartmentalized away.
In a very similar fashion, we wrestle with much of the same things today as this church did back nearly two thousand years ago. We have things in our lives that showcase to the world around us our identity. We live in a society that has cultural values, worldviews, thoughts and ideas that deeply influence our thinking, our decisions, our lifestyle choices, and a myriad of other areas of our lives.
Last week, our passage focused on the relationship between a husband and wife and how this marriage relationship should paint a vivid picture of the relationship of Christ and His Church. This week, our passage deals with two primary pieces of any person’s life: their family structure/dynamic and the workplace and/or authority system they live within.
Your Family Has Kingdom Value
God has created us as communal creatures. We are not meant to live our lives in isolation–void of all relational connection or contact. We are made by God to function within the framework of relationship. This is why one of our most severe forms of punishment is isolation. Possibly worse than someone’s life ending is having to endure long periods of social isolation. The psychological effects this has on someone is astounding, and again, indicates our need for social interaction at a very base level.
Paul directs the attention of his readers to a pinnacle moment in the history of God’s People when he gives them His law, the Ten Commandments. The fifth commandment is “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) and there is a promise that if this commandment is heeded the result will be flourishing.
This section deals specifically with children and their role as submitted to their parents. Paul earlier addressed the submission/authority role of wife/husband, now he progresses to children/parents, he will end this section with the final example of this with bondservants/masters.
As children, we are called to honor our parents. Honoring someone may take on different forms throughout one’s life. When you are young, honoring your parents primarily means obeying them–as Paul states in 6:1. However, when you are well into your adult years and your parents are in their twilight years, honoring may mean providing for them or caring for them (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). Children are to do these things “in the Lord”, or as Paul states in Colossians “for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Ultimately, a child’s obedience is not unto their parents, but unto the Lord.
Paul turns his focus to the authority figure over young children, their fathers. Fathers must realize their vital role in the life of their children. Our society greatly minimizes the responsibility and importance of a father. The shaping influence of a home is the father. If the father is present, the home will be significantly shaped by his attitudes, desires, decisions and preferences. If the father is absent, the home will be shaped by the paternal void.
As fathers, the call is to courageously lead your family into an understanding who God is and show how the Gospel impacts your life. If you are a father, realize that your family needs you more than you may recognize. Your children are shaping their ideas of what manhood ought to look like from your example. Your young boys are looking to you as they form into young men. Your young girls are looking to you as the example of what to look for in a future spouse. You must steward this relationship in your life well. And as with children, you are called to steward this as to the Lord–recognizing that your Father in heaven has entrusted your children to you for a season to awaken a love of Christ in them through your word and deed.
Your Work Has Kingdom Value
You may not realize it but your work is very important in the construct of God’s Kingdom. When God made man in the Garden of Eden, he charged him with God glorifying work (Genesis 2:15). Work is not a result of the fall, but rather, work was created and designed as a part of man’s purpose here on earth. God made us to work for His glory. Adam declared the greatness of God by caring for, subduing and having dominion over the plants and animals (Genesis 1:28). The fall made this good work unpleasant, harsh and difficult.
The work that you do matters. Paul directs the attention of the Ephesian church to the arenas of work in their lives and the relationships within these workplaces. First, bondservants (the Greek word doulos can be translated also as “slaves”), are to obey their earthly masters sincerely. This can be a difficult request, especially if our master (or boss) is harsh, unfair and antagonistic toward us. We can sometimes feel very justified in our resistance against a boss/master of this sort. However, our challenge as Christians is to not work toward our earthly boss as though our disposition toward them was based on their character and actions, but rather, to allow our disposition towards them be directed by our affection for God Himself. We should work for our boss, as to the Lord.
The story of young David is a great example for us of what submission to an unjust authority figure looks like (1 Samuel 16-24). David recognized that Saul was the Lord’s anointed, placed into David’s life for a reason and purpose. Your boss is in your life, not only for the purposes of your job, but also for the purposes of developing your character into that of Christ–how are you stewarding your relationship with your boss?
Paul’s instruction, carrying the pattern of instruction given first to those who are submitted, then to those who are in a position of authority, gives direct instruction to masters/bosses on how they are to treat their bondservants/employees. As a boss, you have an important role in the life of your employees to show that really, you both serve one Master. Through your leadership and conduct as a boss, you are able to showcase the character of our great Master in heaven. You serve those who are submitted to you, as to the Lord.
What if I’m retired?
You may be retired from your vocation or a job where you received compensation, but no one truly escapes the realities of work in their lives. If you examine your life, you will discover areas of service and work, where the principles of submission and authority are present. How do you steward the work that God has given you–even if it doesn’t generate income? Additionally, how do you steward the talents and skills that God has given you through your life of work for Kingdom purposes?
All of life is affected by the Gospel. Our family dynamic and our workplace are deeply influence the spheres of our life, that if stewarded well, will show those around us our hope in Jesus and will give a foretaste of the beauty, values and glory of God’s Kingdom.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, give thanks to God the Father through him.
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 6:1-4
Describe your relationship with your parents.
What about this relationship has helped shaped you as a person? How has your father influenced your life? What about your mother?
In what ways do you honor your parents?
Take a moment to share a story of when you were a child and disobeyed. Describe your actions, thoughts, feelings and the outcome of the situation.
Read: Ephesians 6:5-9
As you consider your work, how do you view your work as ‘unto the Lord’?
In what ways do you serve your boss (or those in authority in your life) sincerely and not as people-pleasers, but rather as God-fearers?
Imagine someone observing your work for a week, what would they say about your morals, ethics, values and attitude?
In what way can your work be a foretaste of God’s Kingdom? How can you carry not only the message of the Gospel to the place you work but also embody the values of a Gospel-driven person into your workplace?