5. We Are Obedient [Ephesians 6:1-9] - Milo Wilson




#BetterTogether 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 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 listeners 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.