BIG IDEA: These last few weeks in Ephesians have been about what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in some of the practical aspects of our lives. In the same vein, let’s look at what it means to be a Gospel worker.
SCRIPTURE: 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.
The book of Ephesians relates God’s plan for creating a new society by his grace and for his glory. It is “…doctrine set to music. Just as [Paul] proclaimed God’s order to the post-Augustine Roman era which was marked by a process of social disintegration, so Ephesians is today the most contemporary book in the Bible, since it promises community in a world of disunity, reconciliation in the place of alienation and peace instead of war” (John Mackay, President Princeton Theological Seminary, 1948).
- Natural Justice: The idea that children should obey their parents is a universal idea; it’s natural. It applies, in some ways, to each of the people groups we’ll look at below. This natural justice represents our relationship with God.
- Delegated Authority: Parents get their authority from God. Employers get their authority from God. Governments get their authority from God. He delegates his authority in the world, so to obey our earthly authorities, is to honor God.
- To Children: Children are to honor their parents. The commandment to obey your parents is different from the commandment to wives to submit. “Obey” is a sterner word. But note that the promise attached is not a threat: it’s a promise that things will go well with you, if you follow God’s lead. This promise is more communal rather than individual. If you have a society in which children obey their parents and the family is strong, you will have a strong society.
- Is there a cutoff age for this? Yes, but it’s not hard and fast. It’s more of a cultural cutoff. Sometimes it’s when the child gets married. Regardless of when this happens, it’s a transition from obedience to honoring. That means that you continue to humble yourself and seek the wisdom of your parents.
- Fathers/Mothers: Once again, Paul presents a revolutionary idea to the Ephesians. He states that the parents also have a responsibility towards their children. Fathers no longer have unlimited control over their children and their wives like they did in Paul’s context. Gospel parents are to be careful not to provoke their children to anger. They are called to love their children the way God the Father loves us. This picture is a clear picture of what it means to be image-bearers of God.
- Fathers: You are not exempt from taking responsibility in parenting your children. It’s not just up to the mother to raise the children. Start preparing for that responsibility now.
- It’s not enough to just take your children to church and hope that’s enough. You need to be confident in what you believe and train your children in the way they should go, in the ways of God.
- Slaves/Employees: Work as to the Lord. The work that you’re doing isn’t to your earthly boss, coworkers, professors, etc. You’re doing all that you do for Christ himself. If you learn to be a Gospel worker, it will liberate you from the small horizon of people pleasing. You will have a greater horizon of pleasing the Lord — regardless of the nature of your work or the attitudes of the people around you — because you’re not doing your work for man, you’re doing it for Christ. This is really hard, but it’s what God asks of us. Now, this isn’t a shrinking in servitude, but it’s a reverence for the authority of your boss, etc. Don’t just do it when the boss is watching you. Work hard, work well, even when you’re working out of the sight of your authority. Even if you’re not getting paid.
- Masters/Employers: This is, once again, a revolutionary idea in Paul’s context. This is the idea of mutual submission. The employee/employer relationship is reciprocal even though it’s not symmetrical. Employers have a responsibility for how they treat their employees as unto the Lord. It’s important to note, that Paul does not advocate slavery, he merely acknowledges how to live within a Gospel life inside of a state that, though unfortunate, was very real in his time.
- The Gospel changes everything, even our most practical, every day relationships. When we understand that we’re all sinners and all slaves to sin until Christ frees us, we are brought to an even playing field. Those in authority are brought low and those who are low are raised up. All because Jesus came to the earth to serve, paying the penalty for our sin, wiping the slate clean. We are now all equal at the foot of the cross.
- Submit to the authorities in your life as to the Lord, being a beacon of the hope to which we are called, image-bearers of Christ, bringing glory to the name of Jesus.
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