College & Career Class Lesson Summary, June 23, 2019
Paul has been traveling through the idea of a “worthy walk” since the beginning of chapter 4. Towards the end of chapter 5, we see how this worthy walk would impact the relationship of a husband and wife. The Roman society at the time wouldn’t have held women in high regard, at least to where legal and societal rights were concerned. For those of the Roman Empire who came to Christ, they would have been introduced to a completely new society–a world not governed by the Romans, but governed by Christ. Within this world, the husband is to care for the wife as Christ would. The husband isn’t to keep his Roman-influenced mind on the inferiority of the wife, but rather of the express love and care for her to elevate her as the weaker vessel, yet highly praised and honored. However, Paul doesn’t stop with the husband and wife relationship and has a few things to say as it relates to children and parents (again, all under the auspices of a “worthy walk.”)
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 6:3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
There are two parties in view: the parents and the children. The parents (as verse 4 describes) are to provide discipline (instruction, correction) within the bounds of fear and admonition of the Lord. This is to nourish the children, but the children are not nourish of themselves. Many focus on these verses as a means of reminding children to obey their parents, but we should not lose sight of the context that Paul has placed quite a responsibility on the parents. (When verse 4 uses the word “fathers”, it comes from a word that is capable of handling the broader implication of “parents”.) Parents in a “worthy walk” use their opportunity not to bring their children to a frustrated anger, but to nourish them through the Lord’s instruction. By this, the child stands a much better chance at living a long life. Paul hearkens back to the Old Testament commandment and states that this was the first commandment with promise. The idea of “promise” is not a guarantee, as some might propose, but a probability. Should a child be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, there is a greater chance that the installment of those values and principles and the reality of God will influence the child’s decision making through life–resulting in wiser decisions which keep the child safe. However, we all know folks who raised their children under this umbrella only to see the child go off on their own, leaving the God of his/her parents. The promise of the commandment displays the purpose of the command. It is indeed a probability. This is the same mindset, by the way, one should have when reading much of the book of Proverbs. The book, as the title suggests, is full of proverbs, not universal constants. Proverbs 22:6 states to train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he’ll not depart from it. Yet again, how many times do we see children growing up and completely going off the reservation, as it were? Proverbs is a book of wisdom and wisdom is the product of lessons learned through life’s experiences and then applying those lessons learned in future situations. The author is expressing wise counsel in that in his experience, 9 times out of 10, when a child is trained in the way the child is supposed to go, the child won’t deviate from that. This is the same idea about honoring the father and mother being the first commandment with promise.
It is also important to note that just because a child grows doesn’t mean he/she loses the obligation to honor their father and mother. Some take the approach that when they move out, then their parents are on their own and in many instances, parents are woefully neglected by their children after their parents reach a certain age or health status. This isn’t to suggest that a child is evil for determining to provide a place of care that he/she cannot, in good faith, supply themselves (i.e. nursing facilities), but it is to say that the decision for those things shouldn’t be a simple and quick vote cast for convenience.
Neglect, however, isn’t limited to the aged, but can even exist throughout all stages of life. I’ve heard plenty of folks who use God as an excuse for neglect. “Sorry mom, I can’t come see you because I have church tonight.” You could probably think of other things you have heard (or, potentially even said). This is actually a scenario spoken of in scripture. After Judah came out of the captivity of Babylon, many religious sects arose to attempt to reestablish the rightful authority over the nation, but in those attempts, they often brought in their own man-made regulations to augment the Law of Moses. One of these such laws was known as the Law of Corban. Corban simply means gift. And in Matthew 15 and Mark 7, you find the account of this law. Essentially, the Pharisees stated that if you had the means to take care of your parents, then you could take those means and actually just give it to the temple (to them) and God will bless the Corban (gift). In other words, you can serve God by neglecting your obligation to honor your father and mother. This is what the Pharisees taught. However, when it comes to the service of God, it is impossible to serve Him by neglecting others. Recall in Matthew 25 that there is a separation in the sheep from the goats and during this judgement, the Lord praises the sheep for clothing Him, feeding Him, giving Him drink, etc. The sheep look confused and even ask the Lord when it was that they did this unto Him. Here is the Lord’s response:
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
When Paul was on the road to Damascus, the Lord shows up and asks Paul why he was persecuting Him. Paul had been persecuting believers and Jesus claims Paul was persecuting Him. That’s because believers are in Christ – they are His body. Therefore, in as much as we minister and serve the various members of His body, we are ministering and serving Him. It is impossible to serve God through neglecting His body. Yet, the Pharisees, greedy as they were, didn’t care about this. They wanted the cash and they could dupe folks into believing it, then the end justified the means.
Children, despite their age, never lose the obligation to honor their parents. To honor comes from a word that means to establish worth. What is the worth of our parents to us? Honoring isn’t just a bunch of lip-service. Honoring is a welling up from the heart. In the section about the Law of Corban, note Jesus’ words towards the end of His rebuke of the Pharisees,
Matthew 15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 15:5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 15:7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Honoring our parents is born out of the heart. It is the organic choice to recognize their worth and then to treat them according to that worth – a worth that God establishes, by the way. Even if you have parents that are not prone to walk in the ways of God, honor them nonetheless for your own sake and because it pleases God.
As Paul goes on in Ephesians 6, he begins to discuss the mindset of slaves and masters. Paul doesn’t condone nor condemn slavery in the Roman empire. His focus isn’t social change through legislation or revolts. He accepts that is the society they are born into and as a believer, how does one allow their spiritual reality to govern their physical reality? This is what Paul is getting at. When Paul writes elsewhere that in the body of Christ, there is neither slave nor free, he is writing of their standing in Him. Indeed, in Christ all have been made ONE. Yet, in the flesh, we still live in the world, even though we have citizenship in the kingdom of God. Knowing our physical role or societal status plays no part in establishing our spiritual union with Christ, nor dictates any reality thereof, we can thus look at our circumstances and decide how we will let Christ live in and through us. Our purpose is to lift up Christ, not fix nations. Paul speaks of this slave/master reality on a few different occasions and I’ll post those below and comment accordingly.
Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6:6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 6:7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 6:8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 6:9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
The servant is to work for his master as he would work for Christ, not just when their master is watching, but because they are the servants of Christ. Masters should likewise be wise in their dealings with their servants knowing the masters have a Master themselves, Christ. Paul is speaking to believers and in the physical world and some of these believers in the Ephesian assembly were servants and some were masters. Similar to today, some in the church play the role of employee and some as employer, yet, in Christ, both can live and should live in union and should have their physical work, on earth, not be the product of their own role, but the product as of serving Christ.
Colossians 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
Further elaborating on this idea that earthly masters will answer to their heavenly Master, Paul says that there is no respect of persons with God. There is distinction of persons in our human institutions of servants and masters, but to God, that respect doesn’t exist – He will judge each, regardless of what status their role on earth would construct.
1Corinthians 7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. 7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 7:22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. 7:23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 7:24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Here is Paul talking about that our focus isn’t on social revolution or staging coups, etc. Should a slave be proactively given the opportunity for freedom (by his/her master), then Paul says to certainly take it. Because of the immense freedom and liberty we have in Christ, I would venture that Paul would favor freedom and liberty in society, yet, only in as much as it is offered, not taken. Therefore, if your master doesn’t offer you freedom, nonetheless, recognize that your purchase was by Christ – He paid based on your worth. Therefore, if you were born, earthly, into a servant-hood or if you were born into a mastery, regardless, therein abide with God.
1Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 6:2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
It might be tempting for a slave, who has a master who is a believer, to begin to detest his master thinking that the master, if he is a “true believer”, should just free the slave. Yet, Paul says not to despise them but rather do them service because they are faithful and beloved (of God) just as much as the slave is.
Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 2:10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
The servant is not to be argumentative with their master and not to steal from his master, but is to work with faithfulness and integrity, thereby adorning the doctrine of God.
The entire letter to Philemon is a letter of Paul, writing to a master (Philemon) about his run-away slave, Onesimus and Onesimus becomes a believer and is very dear to Paul. Paul wants Onesimus to go back to Philemon and Paul pleads with him to receive him in the Lord as Paul has. Paul doesn’t want Philemon to be angry with him, but to receive him. Paul says that if Onesimus, through his abandonment, has caused Philemon financial loss to put it to Paul’s charge and Paul will take care of it. This short letter is very fascinating in regard to this topic of slaves and masters. (Read my synopsis of Philemon here: https://libertythrugrace.com/2019/03/28/philemon-a-synopsis/)
We should see, not only in Ephesians, but in the other areas where Paul speaks about this, that it is indeed possible to live and abide with God despite our status in this life. To the one born in poverty and the one born in the mansion, both can live unto God and in so doing, both love and rejoice over one another as believers. Yet, both slaves and masters face issues in this life, especially from spiritual wickedness in high places. Paul is going to have some insights for us in Christ (not just limited to slaves and masters), but to all members as to how we can be prepared to battle these spiritual forces. The armor of God will be the subject of our next lesson.
Our story continues…