In God We Trust: “Because I Possess Nothing Of My Own”

In God We Trust Series
  • There's no doubt we are living in unstable and turbulent times, but there has never been a better time to choose to have all-out trust in our God. For our culture, the topic of money and giving is one of the most difficult things to address, yet the Bible speaks abundantly on it. We have been created to say with tremendous faith, “I trust in you, Lord ... my times are in your hand!”
1. In God We Trust: Because I Possess Nothing of My Own (I Chronicles 29:10-22)
  • God owns it all, from beginning to end. “for all things come from You.”
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • God owns it all, from beginning to end. (I Chronicles 29:11 & 12)
  • God asks us to renounce any claim of ownership. (I Chronicles 29:14-16)
  • We can trust in God for everything, and in that, worship Him with joy and thanks. (I Chronicles 29:20-22)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What does it mean to say that God owns it all?
  • What does it mean to renounce any claim of ownership?
  • Why can we trust fully in God when it comes to possessions?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why does David begin his prayer in the context of the call to the building of the Temple, by praising God?
  • What is the point of David’s saying that “all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours?”
  • What is it about owning all there is that means God has power and might and rules over all?
  • Why did the people give for the building of the Temple?
  • From where did the people obtain what they gave to, and were going to give for. the building of the Temple?
  • How does God “test the heart and why?” (I Chronicles 29:17)
  • What does testing the heart have to do with possessions?
  • What is “uprightness, and why does God take pleasure in it? (I Chronicles 29:17)
  • What is God’s will as it relates to use of His possessions?
  • Why does acknowledging that God owns it all and we own nothing lead us to worship?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Why should you bless the Lord and extol His greatness and power and glory?
  • What is the relationship between riches and possessions and God’s glory?
  • Can you bless the Lord for His greatness? How can you do that?
  • What is your attitude toward your possessions? What change in your attitude might be suggested by this passage?
  • What does it mean to trust in God in general? What does it mean to trust in God with regard to possessions?
  • Can you renounce your ownership in possessions? How can you do that?
  • What does it mean for you to renounce your ownership of possessions?
  • Can you trust God to provide for you?
  • Are you thankful and joyful that God owns everything and that you can trust Him to provide for you? How can you express that thanks and joy?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
These Notes mark the start of a Series entitled “In God We Trust.” The Series is about money, at least on the surface. However, the Series is really about more than money; it's about the truth that God is at the center of everything, and that what we possess actually belongs to God and we are just stewards of what He permits us to have, including money (our “treasure”), but also including our time and our talents. And further, because God owns everything and He is the God who provides (indeed, one of His names in the Old Testament is “Jehovah Jireh” which means “God will provide”), we can trust Him in everything. Such a position frees believers when it comes to money: it frees us from loss of possessions; it frees us from worry; it frees us to give; it frees us to invest for the good of the His kingdom; and it frees us to be content and use His resources wisely. As we work our way through this Series, then, be prepared for the Holy Spirit to change your thinking, to free you from a view of money that revolves around self, and to help you trust Him in everything and for everything.

The starting point for the Series is that we trust in God because we possess nothing of our own. That can be a hard thing to admit because we do have possessions; we have things, we have money, we have other “assets.” We list these possessions on our “asset sheet” when we see a financial consultant; we convey these possessions by our last wills and testaments; we give some of these possessions away; we invest some of these possessions to generate more possessions; we work to earn secure more possessions in terms of salary, pay and benefits. I could go on; but the point is that we all think of all of these things – this stuff, and this money, and these stocks, and this whatever - as mine, or as yours, or as ours, and we exercise control over these things. And beyond this, there are laws and regulations that govern ownership and control and how we engage in transactions with these things, and all of these laws and regulations derive from the concept of ownership rights and obligations. So, whether we consider ourselves rich or poor or somewhere in between, we think we own whatever it is we have, and that it is our job to provide for ourselves through the use and application of these things.

David was king over the nation Israel for some 40 years, having been anointed as king by God Himself (I Samuel 16:1-3, 11-13. See also II Samuel 2:4, 7; 5:1-5). As king, David had many possessions, and would certainly have been considered a very rich man. He had a palace in Jerusalem (II Samuel 5:9-12) and immense wealth (I Chronicles 29:3-5). One thing David desired to do was to build a Temple in Jerusalem for the worship of the God of Israel. However, God did not permit David to build the Temple because he was a man of war (II Samuel 7:4-13), but said instead that David’s offspring would build the Temple (II Samuel 7:12 & 13; I Chronicles 22:7-10). So, as David neared the end of his life, he proclaimed his son, Solomon, to succeed him as (I Chronicles 23:1; 29:21-25), and thus it became Solomon’s task to build the Temple. During his lifetime, David had gathered great amounts of materials for construction of the Temple (I Chronicles 22:1-5, 14-16). Before he died, David assembled the leaders and officials of Israel and his son, Solomon, to charge them regarding Solomon and his appointment as king, and to call them to the building of the Temple (I Chronicles 28:1-10). Moreover, he gave Solomon plans and specifications for the Temple itself and for those who would lead in worship and service, and for the outfitting of the Temple (I Chronicles 28:11-21). Finally, David charged all the people (“the whole assembly”) who were gathered to give of their possessions to add to what he had gathered for the building of the Temple, and challenged them by telling of how much of his own personal possessions he had given for the work (I Chronicles 29:1-5). And the people responded and gave generously (I Chronicles 29:6-9). It seems, then, that David and the people of Israel thus gave from what they owned.

But in his subsequent prayer to God before the assembly, David rightly put everything that had happened, and the giving of possessions for the building of the Temple, into the right context, namely that we possess nothing of our own. David begins with praise to God (I Chronicles 29:10b), and an acknowledgment of His greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty (I Chronicles 29:11a). Clearly, God is the beginning and end of everything; He is beyond great and glorious; He is the creator, the all majestic One; all praise rightly extend to Him in every way from every person. (Compare this thought with the beginning of the approach to prayer taught by Jesus found in Matthew 6:9 & 10.) The implication flowing from this truth, David prays, is that everything is God’s and is under His reign and rule (I Chronicles 29:11b & 12). David put it this way in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” (See also Job 41:11; Haggai 2:8) So the clear truth is “God owns it all.” The flip side of that truth is that we own nothing! We need to acknowledge this truth, and even thank God for it. (I Chronicles 29:13)

But what is to be our response to the foregoing truth beyond the acknowledgment of it? I believe Jesus gave the answer in His response to the rich ruler who wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18). AT the end of His conversation with this man, Jesus said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22) In essence what Jesus was asking the rich man to do was to renounce any claim of ownership in his possessions (the man was rich, Luke 18:23). Jesus wants us to rely totally on on Him, not on our possessions, as the way to true life, which is to say, we should trust totally in God, and not in possessions which, just by the way, are not ours at all as they belong to Him. Thus, we need to go beyond agreeing that God owns everything and take the affirmative step in mind and attitude that we don’t own anything. This step alone sets one free from possessions owning the person! Why worry about money or possessions if we have none anyway, and since our Father, God, has everything and I am His child! It comes down to trust, specifically, trust in God. But for what? For everything. God knows our needs already (Matthew 6:25-32; I Timothy 6:6-8), and He promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19. See also, Matthew 6:33b; 7:11; Romans 8:32b). It is within God’s power to provide, and it is in His will to provide. David says as much in his prayer: “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” (I Chronicles 29:12) We can trust in God indeed.

Though everything belongs to God, it is also true that He entrust some of what is His to us (Matthew 25:14). In short, God allows us to hold onto some of His possessions, and doing so places on us a stewardship responsibility (in more modern day terms, a “fiduciary” responsibility). A steward (or a fiduciary) is one who takes care of money or other assets for another person and for that person’s benefit in accordance with that person’s instructions (e.g., Joseph as shown in Genesis 39:4-6). Modern day fiduciaries include, for example, Executors of a Will, Trustees of a trust, and Directors of a corporation. Such fiduciaries are held to a high standard of ethical and moral responsibility, and have duties of care, loyalty, good faith, confidentiality, prudence and candor. Moreover, fiduciaries must account for that which is in their charge (I Chronicles 29:17. See also Matthew 25:19-30). If everything belongs to God, and we treat possessions that way, renouncing our own ownership in them, and if we understand we hold God’s possessions in trust for Him and for His uses, then those possessions are to serve Him not ourselves. And serving God with His possessions in fact totally excludes serving self with them. (You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24)

In David’s case, he recognized that all the offerings made for the building of the Temple, though given by himself and his fellow Israelites, were from God Himself, the God who holds their lives in His very hand (I Chronicles 29:14-16). Giving of those possessions for the building of the Temple amounted to an offering to God, given freely and joyously, and ultimately for His use in keeping people’s hearts in line with God’s thoughts through their worship in the very Temple that was to be built (I Chronicles 29:18 & 19). One’s attitude, following one’s renunciation of ownership, is thus to be from the heart, is to be real and voluntary, and not one of a begrudging submission which would suggest one’s still holding on to possessions. IN that proper and “upright” heart attitude comes even more worship of the God who owns all and who provides, which was exactly the response of the people David addressed. They blessed God, they worshiped Him, they gave offerings to Him, and they were glad in heart. (I Chronicles 29:20-22)

Recognizing that God owns everything from beginning to end, renouncing our own ownership of anything, and instead recognizing that we are stewards of that which He chooses to entrust into our care, is part and parcel of trusting in God. And God is worthy of our trust because He promises to provide for us, knowing all our needs. In the end of it all, this knowledge and this way of living frees us to worship the God who is worthy, and to hold loosely that which He has entrusted to us, using it for His glory and honor.

There’s no doubt we are living in unstable and turbulent times, but there has never been a better time choose to have all-out trust in our God. For our culture, the topic of money and giving is one of the most difficult things to address, yet the Bible speaks abundantly on it. We have been created to say with tremendous faith, “I trust in you, times are in your hand!”

1. In God We Trust: Because I Possess Nothing Of My Own [1 Chronicles 29:10-22]
God owns it all, from beginning to end. “For all things come from You.”

2.  In God We Trust: Even Though I’m Worried [Matthew 6:25-34]
God provides for even our smallest of needs. “For tomorrow will worry about itself.”

3.  In God We Trust: For More Than The Value Of a Dollar Bill [2 Corinthians 8 & 9]
God wants us to give generously as an offering of worship. “For God loves a cheerful giver.”

4.  In God We Trust: Even When I’m Afraid To Invest Myself [Matthew 25:14-30]
God sees responsible saving driving radical giving. “For God has entrusted me with much.”

5.  In God We Trust: While My Trouble May Be His Blessing [Philippians 4:10-20]
God expects us to be wise in our use of what is His. “For I have learned to be content.”

We're Better Together: “We Are Alert”

We're Better Together Series
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
6. We're Better Together: “We Are Alert” (Ephesians 6:10-24)
  • We are in a war emotionally, relationally, financially, spiritually. Stand your ground! Pray for boldness to share the gospel.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • The Church is in pitched spiritual warfare with the devil. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
  • God has provided believers with complete armor with which to stand against the devil and his schemes. (Ephesians 6:10 & 11, 13-18)
  • In the midst of spiritual warfare, believers are to stand firm and proclaim the gospel message with boldness. (Ephesians 6:13, 19 & 20)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How should you live your life as if you are in a spiritual battle?
  • If spiritual armor of God is necessary for the spiritual battle, are you fitted with that armor?
  • How can you stand firm and proclaim the gospel in the midst of spiritual battle?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What does it mean to be strong in the Lord? How strong is the Lord?
  • Why is it that we are to “put on the whole armor of God?”
  • Who is the devil and why must we be aware of him and what he is up to?
  • What is the devil up to and what methods does he use to try to accomplish his purposes?
  • What is the spiritual battle, and who are the forces the Church is up against?
  • What is God’s charge to us in terms of the spiritual battle?
  • Describe the spiritual armor Go has given us in your own words? Why do we need God’s whole armor?
  • How can God’s armor enable us to stand against the devil?
  • Why is prayer so important as part of God’s armor? How are we to pray? List the ways
  • Why is prayer important for others in the Church?
  • What are the impact of peace, love with faith and grace for the life of the Church?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • How can you be strong in the Lord?
  • How can you put on and take up the whole armor of God? When should you do so?
  • Do you believe that Satan is real? What is his aim and purpose, and why is he our enemy?
  • Do you consider Satan and his hordes to be your enemy? If so, why? If not, why not? And if not, you should!
  • How are you doing in standing against the schemes of the devil? How do his schemes impact you and what do you do to stand against them.
  • How does the devil attack you? Attack your family? Attack your church?
  • What is your defense against the devil? What is the church’s defense against the devil?
  • Why is it important that the Church as one body stand against the devil as a body?
  • What do peace, love with faith and grace mean to you?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Paul is about to bring his letter to the Ephesian church to a close. He has written about God’s great plan and the place of the Church in that plan; and he has written about the new life that is to mark the lives of Christ followers as the Church and as individuals. Starting in verse 10 of Chapter 6, Paul issues a clarion call to the Church as it faces the spiritual battle that rages. As followers of Christ, we are literally at war with God’s enemy, Satan. (Ephesians 6:11) The unity of the body of Christ, the Church, is not only crucial for the health of the Church Ephesians 4:1-6), it is crucial for engaging in the spiritual battle itself. So Paul sets forth a call to arms, so to speak, and a charge to believers to stand and fight. Yes, Jesus has already won the ultimate victory (Ephesians 1:20-23); but believers still live on earth where Satan has sway and power until the very end, and meanwhile is doing all he can to oppose and thwart the advance of God’s kingdom, to render believers ineffective and unproductive for the kingdom, and to bring the name of Jesus into disrepute and ridicule.

Verse 10 begins with the word “Finally,” which suggests he is wrapping up. But his “wrap-up” is not a summary, but, as noted above, is a call for application. A loose paraphrase might be, “Finally, you’ve heard about God’s plan and your part in it as transformed individuals working together, now here’s what to watch out for as you walk the walk of faith and here's how you can stay strong in Him because He is strong indeed.” The popular translation, “The Message,” puts it this way: “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong.” Simply put, believers, “be strong!” Interestingly, the Greek can be translated to read, “be empowered continually in the controlling might possessed and exerted by God.” Remember Paul’s earlier description of God’s mighty power in Ephesians 1:19 & 20: God’s power is limitless; it is exerted in His actions; it is under His control pursuant to the operation of His will; it is effective in achieving the intent and purposes of His will; and it is inexorable and irresistable in its application. (cf. Ephesians 3:20). That’s the might in which believers stand!

What a place to start! As believers, we can be strong because we are His children, indwelt by God the Spirit, and endowed with His strength! But how can we appropriate that power and for what purpose? Well, we can, and must, appropriate that power by putting on “the whole armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:11) And why? So that we can take our stand in the spiritual warfare against the devil and his wily schemes. The “whole armor” is a picture of a Roman soldier. As a prisoner, Paul was guarded by Roman soldiers, so he had them in mind as he wrote and enumerated the fighting gear of the soldier ready for battle. In addition, to take one’s stand was also a military term used for a soldier holding his position against the attack. In verse 12, Paul describes the enemy and the battle; he writes that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” One commentator calls this a “war to the death against supernatural forces.” In short, ours is no ordinary battle, and it is a fight we cannot win without God’s armor and His strength. The word “wrestle” is also translated “struggle” or even “fight,” and it looks to the Greek wrestling contest in which the loser had his eyes gouged out. Thus, it is a desparate battle, and a close, hand-to-hand combat that must be won.  The battle is constant and unrelenting, a steady onslaught of the enemy which we must resist and oppose with preparedness, steadfastness and watchfulness.

And Paul tells us that the battle is against the supernatural, which he describes with four terms: rulers; authorities; cosmic powers; spiritual forces of evil. These forces of the devil are hordes of demons who have been given limited authority in the realm of the earth, and who, together with their general, Satan, seek dominion and control of the earth and its inhabitants, and who inhabit “the heavenlies” outside of the earth. Another commentator states that these enemies are “the demonic hosts of Satan, always assembled for mortal combat, and who seek to rule over the world for their lord, Satan. These forces attack the Church to bring about disunity, distrust, distraction, dissension and distress through lies and deception (cf. II Corinthians 2:11). Among other ways, they attack the Church by promulgating false doctrine, planting false believers in the Church, fomenting dissention among believers, causing disunity and infighting, leading people into overt and unchecked sin, and fostering financial greed and sexual sin. These forces have organization, rank, large numbers, power, and they are active. They are under the control and rule of the devil, Satan, who is real. He is an accuser (Revelation 12:7-11), the tempter (Matthew 4:3), the evil one (Matthew 13:38 & 39), a murderer (John 8:44), a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), an adversary (I Peter 5:8), the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), and one who disguises himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14). He is also a schemer who employs craft and deceit with methodical cunning. Note, however, that Satan is a created being; he is not equal to God; he is not “omni anything.” Thus, although he operates with great power, that power is limited, as it is under God’s overall realm of rule and authority.

But make no mistake, Satan is powerful; and so God does not leave us to engage in this fight without resources. So he provides believers with His whole armor to fight against Satan and his forces. So Paul continues and says “take up” the whole armor (Ephesians 6:13). Interestingly, he uses a different verb than the one he used in verse 11 where he told us to “put on” the whole armor. “Put on” has the sense of “be clothed in,” whereas “take up” has the sense of”receive” or “assume.” Taken together, we are told to be outfitted in general with (“put on”) the whole armor of God, and to “get dressed” (“take up”) with the various pieces of the armor and use them. And further, it is the “whole” armor which tells us that God’s armor is complete, it is sufficient in quantity and quality for the battle; there’s nothing lacking in what we need in order to defend against (“withstand.” Ephesians 6:13) the attack and stand firm to the end. But just what is the whole armor? It is the following, and note how the text indicates that we are to take up each piece of armor (“fastened on;” “put on” in Ephesians 6:14. “put on” in Ephesians 6:15.” “take up” in Ephesians 6:16.” And “take” in Ephesians 6:17):

the belt of truth – (cf. Isaiah 11:5) the belt held up the tunic the soldier wore, kept the breastplate in place, and was used for the scabbard that held the sword. For the believer, God’s truth, namely the truth of the gospel and who Jesus is and what He has done, supports the rest of our spiritual armor. The truth is the defense to the lie; the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

the breastplate of righteousness – (cf. Isaiah 59:17) the soldier was covered from neck to thighs by the metal breastplate which protected the heart and inner organs; there was generally also a matching backplate. For the believer, the breastplate is righteousness, namely the righteousness of Jesus which covers us and protects us, and is the morality and purity that are to mark the life of the believer and the Church.

feet shod with the gospel of peace – (cf. Isaiah 52:7) the soldiers wore boots that were tough and thickly studded with nails on the soles for good grip. The believer wears the solid foundation of salvation in Jesus through which we have peace with God, with self and with one another, and a secure foothold for life.

the shield of faith – the soldier held the shield, approximately 2’x4’ in size, of two layers of hard wood glued together and covered with flame resistant hide and bound with iron. It was used to protect from arrows and blows. The believer uses faith, namely faith in Jesus for salvation and the living of a victorious life and a life hereafter. We live by faith (Romans 1:17); we serve by faith (Romans 12:3 & 6); we stand firm in the faith (II Corinthians 1:24); we walk by faith (II Corinthians 5:7); we fight in faith (I Timothy 6:12); we keep the faith (II Timothy 4:7); and we persevere in faith (II Thessalonians 1:4). Such faith and a life of faith stops the fiery darts and arrows of the devil and extinguishes them.

the helmet of salvation – (cf. Isaiah 59:17) the soldier wore a metal helmet which protected the head from deadly blows. It was handed to the soldier by the armor bearer which is why the soldier would “take” the helmet. The believer is to accept the gift of salvation of God; to receive it. It is not something we can produce. Once accepted, we are protected (cf. I Peter 1:5) by the salvation that comes through belief in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.

The sword of the Spirit – the sword referred to here is the short, two-edged sword used for close-in fighting, slashing, cutting and thrusting. The sword of the believer, the only armor piece that is used both for defense and offense, is the authoritative, powerful, and ever-lasting word of God. In this spiritual battle, we are to read it publicly (I Timothy 4:13); teach it faithfully ((II Timothy 2:2); handle it accurately (II Timothy 2:15); use it effectively (II Timothy 3:15-17); preach it continually (II Timothy 4:2); treasure it willingly (Psalm 119:11); and follow it constantly (Psalm 119:105).

Praying in the Spirit – while not related to a specific piece of equipment, this piece of armor underscores the fact that the soldier needed to keep in direct touch with his commander for instructions, encouragement, and the like. The believer must likewise constantly stay in touch with God through prayer, using all kinds of prayer (thanksgiving, praise, request, intercession, etc.), all the time and especially on behalf of other believers. We must “keep alert” (literally “be sleepless”) in our praying, on our guard in the battle, knowing that we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26 27) who takes our prayers and ignites them in the will of God.

Having enumerated the whole armor of God, as part of the community of faith and the “one another” of the Church, Paul asks for prayer for himself (Ephesians 6:19), and specifically that he would be empowered to speak the gospel boldly. Paul knows that he is one member of the body of Christ, and no more important than any other member; and in that knowledge, he is acutely aware of his need for prayer from the body. And so he unashamedly asks for it. It seems likely that Paul is thinking about the appearance before the imperial Roman court which he awaits. He wants the power to speak and even the words to use as an “ambassador” for the true King Jesus. Paul wants to use the right words at the right time in the right way, with freedom (“boldness”) and confidence (Ephesians 6:20). Paul is thus supremely aware that he has been called to speak for Jesus and that as such, though he is in chains in prison, he is still the representative of that true King and thus has the opportunity of a lifetime to share the gospel to those in power at the very core of the Roman empire. What a place to be, for sure!

Paul has reached the end of his letter, and of the clarion call for the entire body of Christ, the Church, to be the Church that it was made to be, its members using their gifts to minister the gospel to the world, living righteously in the world in the new life, and standing firm in the full armor of God against the devil and his hordes. His final words in verses 21 through 24 are personal and meant as encouragement to the believers in Ephesus and in all the other churches who would read this circular letter from Paul, who is part of the Ephesian's church body and of the larger body of Christ. He wants his fellow believers to understand his own circumstances so they can pray for him intelligently and know that he is in the center of God’s will, even while they overcome any discouragement they may have in the midst of the spiritual battle. To that end, Paul is sending his trusted aide and co-worker, Tychicus (Acts 20:4; II Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12), to give them details and further information in person. Paul then closes his letter with a wonderful benediction and blessing which reflects the key thoughts he expounded in the letter, namely peace and reconciliation, love with faith, and abounding grace. In short, the blessing says to his readers and to all who are in Christ, be at peace with one another with the peace that comes from Christ through faith, and live and minister together in the love of Christ which is imperishable. Amen!  

We're Better Together: “We Are Obedient”

We're Better Together Series
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
5. We're Better Together: “We Are Obedient” (Ephesians 6:1-9)
  • The most important person in your life is your Father. Jesus is boss – he sees, he knows, and rewards all.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • The relationships of children to parents and parents to children are part of God's plan and impact the Church. (Ephesians 6:1-4)
  • The new life in Christ must be lived out in the relationships of slaves to masters and masters to slaves (or, in our day, employees to employers and employers to employees). (Ephesians 6:5-9)
  • God expects His children to live under His Lordship in all of life as an integral aspect of being part of the Church. (Ephesians 6:1-9 by implication)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • You are a child; you may also be a parent. How are you living out your child-parent, parent-child relationships under God?
  • You may be an employee, and you may be an employer. How are you living out those roles in respect to your employer, or your employees, under God?
  • How are you doing in living out your life as a child of God in relation to the Church and your own local church as a part of the Church?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What is the implication of children being part of the Church?
  • How are children to act towards their parents?
  • Why are children to obey their parents?
  • What is the promise God gives to children who obey their parents?
  • How are parents to act towards their children and why?
  • What does it mean to bring up a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?
  • Why are slaves to obey their masters (or employees their employers)? Why?
  • How are masters to treat their slaves (or employers their employees)? Why?
  • How does God view children and parents, slaves and masters in respect to each other and others in the body of Christ?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Do you honor your father and mother? In what ways? How do you still do that when you are older and independent?
  • If your father or mother has treated you disrespectfully, provoked and exasperated you, how should you treat them?
  • What does it mean to provoke your children? Why should you not do that??
  • How do you bring up a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?
  • What does it mean to have a sincere heart with regard to your employer (i.e., your boss)?
  • What do “eye-service” and “people pleasers” mean? Why are we not to act in that way with regard to our employer (boss)?
  • What is the reward from God for serving your employer (boss) in the way verses 5-8 describe?
  • Why should you employers (bosses) treat your employees with a sincere heart?
  • What does all the foregoing have to do with your being part of the Church?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Paul continues with the application of the truth of the “new life” in Christ, the transformed life, that is to be reflected in and practiced by the Church and its members. He has written about the relationship of husbands and wives. And now he turns to two more relationships within the community of the Church, namely parents and children, and slaves and masters. As with wives, Paul begins with the societally underprivileged and subordinate in each case, namely with children and with slaves. And what he is about to write will turn on their heads the common notions of the society of his day in regard to children and slaves. In respect to both, we will see how the life of the community is key, that such life trumps the emphasis on the individual, and that it sets the whole, both individual and community, under the Lordship of Christ and the will of God the Father.

Because he is addressing children, we can be confident that children indeed are included in the life of the community of faith; in other words, the community is not “adults only.” (Ephesians 6:1) Young people have come to faith as well as adults, and therefore are part of the body of Christ. But then, how are they to be treated since they are part of a family unit, with mother and father. Paul tells the children right up front, “obey your parents,” and then gives the why, namely that such obedience is “in the Lord” and “is right.” In short, the family unit, with parents bringing up children, is part of God's plan for society, and in that plan, the children are to listen to and be attentive to their parents, and then do what they hear (all implied in the word “obey” in the original Greek). And this obedience is inclusive as Paul states in Colossians 3:20 where he writes that children are to obey their parents “in everything.” This obedience is consistent with the message and pictures in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 22:1-12, where Isaac obeyed his father, Abraham), and with Jesus Himself while He was on earth (Luke 2:51 & 52, where Jesus submitted to his earthly parents). Thus, a child's obedience to his or her parents is tantamount to obedience to the Lord Himself, and it pleases the Lord (Colossians 3:20) in that it is consistent with and fulfills His will. But Paul goes on and references the 5th of the 10 commandments, “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) to say that obedience is part and parcel of honor to one's parents, honor meaning to respect, esteem or value, and therefore also partakes of the associated promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:3). Parents, too, are included in this orbit of God's will for the family, given the responsibility to raise, care for and teach their children, and in it all, the individuals, the family, and the entire community will be blessed by God. Disobedience, on the other hand, disrupts, divides and ultimately destroys community, not only the community of faith but the general community (cf. II Timothy 3:1 & 2).

The responsibility in the family doesn't stop with the children. In verse 4, Paul writes to the fathers as head of the family unit (cf. Ephesians 5:5:23) about their, and by implication also the mother's, responsibility in the family vis-a-vis their children. They are not to “provoke” (another translation reads “exasperate”) their children. One commentator says this means that parents are not to goad their children “into a state of perpetual resentment.” In other words, in parenting children, fathers and mothers are not to over-correct, or be so authoritative as to cause the children to lose heart, seethe with anger, and become discouraged and bitter. In the secular society of Paul's day, the father's authority was absolute, and concern and consideration for the child's feelings and state was not an issue. In God's kingdom, however, the child's feelings are to be taken into consideration in the course of parenting. And in fact, as Paul goes on to write, parents are to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4b) Thus, parent's are to nourish their children, feed them in the way of the Lord, direct, form, advise, and encourage them, doing so consistently and thoughtfully and in that way, lead them into godliness. Such is God's way of the family, and it includes training by example of the parents as well as by their words. Such way is part and parcel of the life in the body for families, and it is an integral part of preserving the unity and health of the body as it grows up into the maturity of Christlikeness.

Another significant set of relationships within the society of Paul's day, and thus in the Church, was that of slaves and masters. It is estimated that upwards of one-third of the Roman population, or 60,000,000+/- people, were slaves, with most serving in homes. Slaves were generally regarded as “living tools” and were, in fact, property. Masters had the power of life and death over a slave, though slaves had some “rights” accorded them, including the right to marry and even own property. Slavery was an institution in the Roman society and it was a given. Paul treated it as a given, though understood it was not a God-ordained institution such as was marriage. To seek to overthrow the institution was unthinkable as to do so would undermine the entire society, not to mention any such effort would be crushed ruthlessly. Paul, and the other New Testament writers therefore did not seek to change the institution, but rather sought to submit it to the transformational power of the gospel. Hence, in verses 5-9 in this text, Paul writes to those in the Church who were slaves and masters, starting with the slaves, and tells them how to live in God's kingdom in the context of their societal roles and positions. First, he tells slaves to “obey” their earthly masters. The command is the same as that to children (Ephesians 6:1), and it means “to hear and to do,” just as they would obey Christ (Ephesians 6:5). In other words, slaves were to submit voluntarily to the headship of their masters who, in turn, were also under the overall headship and authority of Jesus Himself. And how were they to obey in terms of their attitude? With fear and trembling (Ephesians 6:5a) meaning respect and reverential awe (one commentator writes that this means slaves were to have “solicitous zeal in the discharge of duty.”), with a sincere heart (Ephesians 6:5b, 6), when seen and unseen (Ephesians 6:6), as pleasing God (Ephesians 6:6), in service to God and His will (Ephesians 6:7), and with the knowledge that God sees all his or her service and is the rewarder of obedient service to Himself (Ephesians 6:8). The foregoing surely undercut any sense of reluctance or bitterness by a slave in serving, or any desire to undercut the master or not do a good job. That is not God's way of serving and in fact is displeasing to God and not the basis of any reward of “well done” from Him. But Paul did not stop with slaves; he adjures masters to treat their salves in the same way (Ephesians 6:9) which includes their threatening their slaves as a means of securing compliance, an approach which was decidedly opposite of the particulars he had just described for slaves. In short, believing masters were servants of God Himself, the Lord of all, and the ultimate judge of all and their behavior on earth as His children. And God does not play favorites; a master is not more important than a slave, nor is a slave more important than a master. In the foregoing we again see the principle of mutual submission applied for the health and unity of the body of Christ. Believing slaves and masters were all part of the body that was united in Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:1-6), and they each bear responsibility to live as such.

In these verses, then, Paul is spelling out the implications for life of being part of the body of Christ. In that body there is freedom and equality, unity and understanding, responsibility and accountability. All in the body are new creations, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, members one of another, dearly loved children of God whom He calls and expects to live as His children, children of light with lives of love (Ephesians 5:1 & 2). And in these relationships, truly believers are thus to grow into Christ, built up in the faith, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24). Indeed, a beautiful picture, and a picture which, as it is lived out, speaks to the watching world of who God is and what He has done for those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, all to His glory.