Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Christian Work Ethic: Ephesians 6:5-8

Back in chapter 4, we noted that the apostle commends and commands labor.  In other words, he speaks to the morality of labor: “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands that thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (4:28).  In the verses before us this morning, Paul speaks to the manner of and the motivation for our labor. 

Now it is true that he is speaking to bondservants in verses 5-8.  However, there are principles here that apply to all of us who, like the bondservant, work for others.  And even if you are self-employed, these principles still apply.  On some level, all of us are working for someone else.  If you are not self-employed, that someone else is your boss.  If you are self-employed, that someone else is your customer. 

But these verses don’t just apply to you and me because we, like the bondservant, are working for someone else.  The main reason they apply to us is because we belong to Christ and all our work is ultimately to be work for Christ.  It is not just the slave who must be conscientious of this fact; it is something that all who embrace the Lordship of Christ over their lives must live out on a day to day basis.  These verses are a specific application of the general principles laid out in verses like 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”  Or Romans 14:7-9, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.  For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”  And so the apostle commands the servants to do their work, “as unto Christ” (5), “as the servants of Christ” (6), and “as to the Lord” (7).  In other words, the underlying principle here is that believers, as the slaves of Christ, are to do their work to and for him.  It is that principle we want to explore this morning.  In particular, we want to explore how this should affect how and why we do our work.

How does being the servant of Christ affect how we do our work?  Well, first of all, it means we are to do our work by respecting the authorities that God has placed over us.  I take this from the overarching exhortation of verses 5-8: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh” (5).  Now you don’t have to be a slave for this verse to apply to you.  If you have a boss to whom you are accountable, the same principle applies to you.  He or she is over you and you are to respect that authority.  You are to carry out their instructions, you are to obey their commands.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you obey unlawful or wicked directives.  But it does mean that you are not at liberty to do whatever you please on the job.  You are not at liberty to disregard your boss’s instructions just because you think they are ludicrous or because you think you know a better way to do something.  You may in fact know a better way.  In that case, you share (respectfully) your ideas with your boss; if he or she agrees with you, great.  If not, you drop it and do what they want you to do.  The bottom line is that you are obligated to obey your boss even if you don’t like what they are telling you to do.  It is a terrible witness to your employer and your fellow employees to disregard the wishes and directives of those who are over you.  Such an attitude does not spring from godly principles.  More likely, it springs from pride, and it poisons not only your relationship with your boss but also your witness to them.

Even if you are self-employed, there is a principle here that can apply to you.  Every time you enter a contract with someone, you are effectively binding yourself to the person through certain promises and expectations.  As a Christian, you are obligated to follow through on those expectations.  You are not to back down from your obligations or to renege on your contractual promises.  Again, it is a terrible witness when a Christian does something like this.  We are to be men and women of our word.

We must always beware of interpreting our freedom in Christ to mean that we can or should do whatever we want.  That is never what Christian liberty means.  We are always to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pet. 2:13).  Nor does freedom in Christ mean that we are free from responsibility.  It does not mean that we are free to pursue our every whim and desire.  It is no indication of spirituality that we are free to do whatever we please.  Nor is it any indication of a lack of spirituality that we are bound by certain earthly responsibilities and obligations.  Obedience to earthly masters is not a hindrance to spiritual flourishing; neither will being self-employed necessarily promote godliness.  I say this because there is in certain quarters of the church an idea that to be tied down in any respect to external authorities is antithetical to spiritual advancement.  Such an idea finds no place in the Scriptures.  Obey your masters!

Now how does this work itself out in our respective areas of employment?  This leads to the second point.  We are to do our work, the apostle says, “with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (5).  Whether or not you have an earthly master, whether or not you report to a boss or employer or board, the Christian ought to do his or her work “with fear and trembling.”  What does this mean? 

When you compare this to other verses where this phrase appears, it is clear that it refers to what Charles Hodge calls “conscientious solicitude.”[1]  In other words, we are to care about the quality of our labor.  The effort we put into our work is not something we are throwing away.  We are not to look at it as something that does not matter.  It matters: we are to do it “with fear and trembling.”

The apostle is not referring here to the servile fear that many slaves had of their masters.  This again, is clear from a comparison to similar passages.  For example, Paul uses this phrase when he exhorts the Philippian believers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).  He is not saying that the Christian is to grow in grace because they are afraid God will squash them if they don’t dot every “i” or cross every “t” to God’s satisfaction.  That would be servile fear.  But that is not what the apostle is commending there.  Rather, he is saying that they ought to show a great deal of concern and care about their spiritual condition; they are not to take spiritual growth lightly – they are to work at it with fear and trembling.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the apostle should use this same phrase with respect to spiritual growth and service rendered to earthly masters!  It shows just how abominable it is to think that it is mark of spirituality when we abandon our earthly responsibilities in order to pursue spirituality.  God does not command us to go out of the world; he commands us to be in it though not of it, and part of being in it means doing our work well.  We are not to do our work in a slipshod manner; we are to do it with fear and trembling.

Remember what the apostle said to the Thessalonians: “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.  For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:8-10).  You see how the apostle worked: “with labor and travail” – that is the outcome of doing it with fear and trembling.  Now the reason he had to say this to them was because “we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies” (ver. 11).  For whatever reason, some were simply not working.  Far from being Christian, it is wicked: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread” (12).  Refusing to labor in this world is never commended to the Christian, even under the most spiritual of pretenses.

It doesn’t matter where you work, how long you plan to work there, or what your particular job is, as long as it is labor that is consistent with the Lordship of Christ over your life.  You are to do it, whatever it is, with fear and trembling, with conscientious solicitude.  You are to do your work well, to the best of your ability, whatever you or others may think of it.  You are to care about what you do.

Third, the apostle says that we are to labor “in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (5).  Have you ever known someone who couldn’t do their job because their mind was always someplace else?  We are to be single-minded, not double-minded, in our work.  I think the apostle is referring to people who are so discontent with their position and work that they are always dreaming about being somewhere else and doing something else; as a result, they are simply unable to do their work “with fear and trembling.”  It would have been easy for a bondservant to fall into this mindset, but it is equally easy for you and me.  If we will do our work well, we must give our full attention to our tasks, we are to be single-minded.

We must at this point ask: why do all this?  Paul is not talking to missionaries on the mission field – he is talking to slaves many of whom were laboring at menial tasks.  What was the point?  Why give your full attention to such things?  Why do it with fear and trembling?  Surely such earthly and menial tasks are not worthy of the Christian’s full attention!  The reason is given at the end of verse 5: we are to give our obedience to our masters and attention and care to our work, because all our work is rendered ultimately for Christ.  All work can and does have eternal significance when it is done as a servant of Christ and when it is done for him.  You don’t have to preach a sermon or go on a mission trip to serve Christ.  You can wash cars and serve Christ.  You can collect garbage and serve Christ.  You can serve on a city council and serve Christ.  You can teach or mow lawns or do art and science and a million other things and serve Christ.  This is why the care and concern we have for our work is not a function of its cultural value, whether that culture is defined by the church or by the wider secular society in which we live.  It is a function of the one we serve: Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t just call preachers; he also calls electricians. 

Of course we need men and women who are willing to do explicitly Christian work, who are willing to go to the mission field and labor and die there.  The church needs pastors and teachers.  But the fact of the matter is that we may not be gifted for such work, and then it is no lack of spirituality when we go into a job that is not explicitly tied to Christian ministry.  In fact, like the slaves to whom Paul was writing, there may be circumstances beyond our control that dictate the avenue we take in life, an avenue that was not one that we wanted.  But that does not mean that God, in his providence, has no purpose for you there, or that you have failed in life.  I think of John G. Paton’s father in this connection.  He desperately wanted to be a missionary, but for whatever reason, was unable.  Instead, he spent his life as a humble weaver, laboring at this work day in and day out in what must have seemed like menial labor compared to the mission field.  However, it was his godliness at home that certainly played an enormous role in the spiritual formation of his son, who later went on to be a missionary in the New Hebrides, leading an entire island to the feet of Christ.  Over and over again, Paton calls attention to the role his father played in his own spiritual development.  His father wasn’t called to go to the mission field – instead, God called him to so live his life as a weaver that his son would go to the mission field with God’s great blessing and success.

It is also a poisonous and completely unchristian idea that unless you get your dream job, you have failed in life.  It is wrong to assert that unless you have achieved the “American Dream,” are making lots of money, have a large retirement, you have wasted your life.  That is completely false.  You have only failed in life when you fail to serve Christ in whatever place he has put you.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that much what you have done in this life, but rather how you have done it, and to whom you have done it.  Are you living your life for Christ and to Christ?  That is the mark of true success.

Thus the apostle goes on to that we are to work, “not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6).  This is a consequence of serving Christ; our aim is to please Christ in our work.  The idea is more than that we are to do good work at all times; as if what the apostle is condemning are those who work just when the eye of the master is upon them.  Of course this should never describe the way the Christian does his or her work.  But what the apostle is saying here is that we are to work in our job, knowing that ultimately our master is in heaven, not in the office down the hall.  We are to seek to please Christ in our work, whether or not our boss acknowledges us or not.

There are some people who will only labor well and do excellent work as long as they are acknowledged by the people over them and around them.  If they don’t get that plaque on the wall, that trophy, or that raise, their productivity goes down.  The apostle is saying that the disciple of Christ ought never to approach their work in that way.  It’s not about recognition from men; we are to work knowing that we owe our Lord excellence in all that we do.  We don’t do it to please men; we do it to please the Lord.

And that means that we don’t just do our work because we have to; we do it because we want to, and the reason we want to is because we are doing it unto the Lord: “doing the will of God from the heart.”  As John Murray explains, “It is the same vice [that of men-pleasing] that explains the lack of pleasure in work; labour is boredom and about all that is in view is the pay-cheque.  This evil that turns labour into drudgery is but the ultimate logic of eye-service and men-pleasing.”[2]  It might perhaps be surprising that a consequence of doing work to the glory of God is finding fulfillment in our work, but that is certainly an implication of what the apostle is saying.  Unlike men, God looks at the heart.  He cares about our motives.  Therefore, if we are laboring for the Lord, we are not going to be content to merely perform well, but are also going to consider the motives behind the performance.  If we glorify God when we enjoy him, then we can only glorify God when we find pleasure in the tasks that we do for him.  This again does not merely apply to explicitly spiritual exercises like Bible-reading and prayer, but also to our work.

And how can working for God not bring with it its own reward?  When we labor for Christ, we have elevated our work and given it “the character of a religious service, because the motive is regard to divine authority, and its object is a divine person.  It thus ceases to be servile, and becomes consistent with the highest mental elevation and spiritual freedom.”[3]

This point is so important that the apostle essentially restates it in the following verse: “With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (7).  The word “goodwill” here also connotes the idea of zeal and enthusiasm.  The point is that it is always possible to be enthusiastic in our work when it is done with an eye to the glory of God, and from a heart of thanksgiving for his loving lordship over our lives.

In doing this, we follow Christ, who himself came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28).  As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians, he “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).  It is “to this infinitely exalted and infinitely condescending Saviour, who came not be served, but to serve, that the obedience of every Christian, whether servant, child, wife, or subject, is really and consciously rendered.  Thus the most galling yoke is made easy, and the heaviest burden light.”[4]

But the reward that the Christian eyes is not an earthly reward.  We may or may not be rewarded or recognized for our work in this life.  That is why the apostle goes on to say: “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”  I know that some people argue that it militates against the grace of God in salvation to recognize the possibility of rewards in heaven.  But I simply don’t know how to interpret verses like this apart from some doctrine of future reward.  And the reward is not just that we get to go to heaven when we die.  The reward the apostle is speaking of in this verse is specifically tied to things they have done in this life: “whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.”  The Lord will recognize all work done for him in the age to come.  Our reward is future, not present.

But that makes it all the more better.  Any reward given now can only be temporary and marred by effects of our fallen world.  But the reward in the age to come is eternal and unmarred.  It is sweetness without any bitterness.  It is wealth without worry.  It is undiminished good.

Does this mar the doctrine of grace?  I don’t think so.  Any reward in the age to come is not a reward based on merit; any reward will be a gift of God’s grace.  But it has pleased our Father to recognize the labors of his children in this world (which they accomplish in the strength of his grace) by lavishing gifts upon them in the next.  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).  We do not receive them because we deserve them; we receive them because God has ordained them for us in his mercy and grace.

And this reward does not depend upon your status in this world: “whether he be bond or free.”  The reward does not depend on the amount of fame you acquired in this world, or riches, or achievements.  It is graciously given to those who faithfully served Christ, whether or not they were noticed by men.

Here is the bottom line: you will work most fruitfully and with more fulfillment, when your eye is not on men (your boss or the customer) but on Christ; when your reward is not the paycheck but the glory of God; when your example is Christ and your Lord is Jesus.  He sweetens every task and enlarges every field of labor when we do it for him.  For the Christian, there is no such thing a secular work, for all that we do is religious in the sense that it is done for Christ.

If you are a Christian, your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  Because he died for us, and because we have eternal life in him, our entire life belongs to the Lord of the universe.  Our calling is noble because we serve the King of heaven. 

If you are not a Christian, the most you can hope for is for you to find some significance in your work.  But that turns your work into a cruel taskmaster, one to whom you must devote everything, without ever being sure that it will not turn on you in the end and cheat you of the meaning you were so desperately trying to find.  As the hymn puts it: Nothing of this earth is sure; vain hope soon dies; things of the Lord endure – Christ satisfies.  You work cannot give you the one thing you really need: peace with God.  Only Christ can give that to you.  But the wonderful thing is that he freely offers his grace to all who come to him.  So come to Christ, embrace him as your Savior and Lord, and in embracing him, find eternal life and new significance in every earthly task.

[1] Charles Hodge, Ephesians.
[2] John Murray, Principles of Conduct (Eerdmans, 1957), p. 88.
[3] Hodge
[4] Hodge

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The NT Attitude toward Slavery - Ephesians 6:5-9

Before we come to expound these verses, I think it is important to step back for a moment and to consider their overall import.  In the KJV, it might be easy to miss the fact that Paul is addressing slaves and slave-owners in this text, where the terms are translated “servant” and “master.”  However, the terms are the terms for “slave” and “lord,” and thus this brings us to the question of the NT attitude toward slavery, and the apostle’s in particular.  The problem comes down to this: why didn’t the apostle command the slave-owners to free their slaves?  The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t do this; instead, he tells them to treat their slaves with the same respect and dignity that they would want to be treated.  To Philemon, he studiously keeps from pressuring him to free Onesimus, appealing to him instead.  From these facts, it seems to me that it is an inescapable implication that the apostle clearly did not see the institution of slavery as it existed then as fundamentally immoral; otherwise, he would have demanded the masters to free their slaves.  But this is a problem, and an embarrassment, to the modern evangelical sentiment, especially in the West.  Even the famous evangelical pastor and commentator John Stott accuses the apostles with being “mealy-mouthed” in their treatment of the issue of slavery.  What are we to say about this?

This is especially important because the issue of slavery in the NT is a reason that many people give for either (1) rejecting the authority of the Bible wholesale, or (2) refusing to admit its inerrancy in its totality.  This is the primary reason I want to speak to this issue.  I believe the Bible is the word of God and is worthy of your total confidence and trust.  I want you to love it and to live it out in your lives.  I don’t want you to be embarrassed about any of its contents.  So for that reason I think it is important to speak to the issue of the apostle’s attitude towards slavery.

There is another reason, as well.  Recently, there has been quite an uproar in the evangelical world over the issue of social justice and its relation to the gospel.  I know there is some unease over the smuggling of unbiblical categories of thought into the church as it struggles with various social concerns.  But the larger issue is how to think about the relative importance of these issues in light of the gospel.  In what sense are social justice issues a gospel issue?  How does believing and holding to the gospel affect the way we seek to solve social justice concerns?  I think this passage indicates how the apostle would speak to these issues as well.

Why doesn’t the apostle condemn slavery and command masters to free their slaves?  As we try to understand this, the first thing we need to do is to recognize that our own country’s history affects the way we think about this problem.  In other words, when we think of slavery, we automatically think of slavery as it existed in the antebellum South.  It is hard to imagine anyone today wanting to condone that institution.  I certainly would not.  But here’s the thing: I believe the apostle Paul would have condemned that institution as well.  If that is true, then we have to separate in our minds the institution of slavery as it existed in first century Christian households and the institution of slavery as it existed, say, on an 1850 Mississippi plantation.

Why do I say that?  I say it because Paul, being steeped in the Mosaic Law, would have known about Exodus 21:16, which reads, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (ESV).  You can’t kidnap someone from their home and sell them into slavery; under OT law, that’s worthy of capital punishment.  But the reality is that, whatever exceptions there might have been to this, the institution of slavery broadly speaking, as it existed in the Americas, was fundamentally based upon kidnapping people from their homes in Africa, putting them on slave-ships against their will, and selling them into slavery.  Therefore, the institution was fundamentally immoral, and I think it is the responsibility of every Christian to condemn it as such.

Another reason I think the apostle would have condemned slavery, as it existed in our country before the Civil War, is that it was race-based.  Slavery in the NT era was certainly not race-based; in fact, if you had walked down the streets of first century Ephesus or Rome, you would probably not have been able to tell the difference between a slave person and a free person.  One of the reasons why race-based slavery is so insidious is that it inevitably ties the color of a person’s skin with their worth.  Race-based slavery in the US led to white people looking at black people as less human than themselves, simply because their skin was darker than their own.  This in turn led to all the awful by-products of such an attitude in the Jim Crow South that held on even a hundred years later (and in some places, even to the present day).

Let me underline again why it is so important to clarify this.  When we are addressing Paul’s attitude towards slavery, we have to realize that NT household slavery was not the same thing as American slavery.  You simply can’t read Ephesians 6:9 and conclude that the race-based, kidnapped-from-their-homes-based slavery in the pre-Civil War US was okay.  Some Southern theologians tried to do just that, but they were not justified in their conclusions.  This is simply because the apostle was not addressing the same thing they were trying to justify.

But be that as it may, it is still troubling to many that the apostle seems to justify slavery, even if it wasn’t the same thing as that dreadful institution that used to exist in our country.  Slavery, after all, in whatever form, is still one person owning another person.  How could the apostle be indifferent to that?  What is behind his exhortations to slaves and masters in the text?  I want to try to answer this question as best I can, and I will do so in stages, in a series of observations.

Here is the first: The apostle does not commend the institution of slavery in these verses.  It is very important to note that just because the apostle does not overtly condemn slavery, neither does he indicate his approval of it.  His instructions to masters are no endorsement of slavery as an institution; rather, it was his attempt to make an inherently dehumanizing institution as humane as possible by commanding the masters to treat their slaves just as they would want to be treated. 

In fact, his attitude towards slavery comes out a little clearer in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he gives this advice to those believers who found themselves in servitude: “Art thou called being a servant [slave]?  Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  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.  Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants [slaves] of men” (1 Cor. 7:21-23).  The last sentence in that text could mean nothing more than those who are slaves should not think of themselves ultimately as the slaves of men, when they are the slaves of Christ.  However, I think what the apostle is really saying is that the position of slavery to men is fundamentally incompatible with our identity as servants of the Lord, and therefore they should avoid slavery at all costs.  You might think, “Duh,” but the reality is that many people in the first century sold themselves into slavery to better their lives (another way that first century slavery was different from 19th century American slavery!).  People would sometimes sell themselves to a wealthy family where they would be taken better care of, educated in some skill, and then emerge some years later as a free person in a better position.  Sometimes slavery even led to a man gaining Roman citizenship.  So there were all sorts of reasons why a person in Paul’s day might actually choose to become a slave.  What Paul is saying to the Corinthians is, “Don’t do it!  You are Christ’s servants, so don’t become the servants of men.”

This attitude is actually duplicated all over the Bible.  Yes, it is true that in the OT there are all sorts of laws on slavery.  But these laws weren’t implemented to encourage the practice of slavery, but rather to govern it and to curb its abuses.  The same thing was true with respect to divorce.  God tells us that he hates divorce, and our Lord tells the Pharisees that from the beginning it was not so, but then our Lord goes on to say that God gave Moses laws that governed the dissolution of marriage because of the hardness of men’s hearts, not because God approved of divorce.  The same thing could be said with respect to polygamy.  So it’s pretty clear that you can’t just look up the OT legislation on slavery and then say, “Aha! God likes slavery.”  When you build a wall around a tiger so that he can’t get out, you are acknowledging the reality that there are dangerous and evil things that will happen if that tiger gets out.  When God built walls of legislation around the institution of slavery, he was telling everyone that there are inherently dangerous and dehumanizing things about that institution.

The fact of the matter is that in the OT, the ultimate evidence of God’s blessing upon his people is that “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree” (Micah 4:4; cf. 1 Kings 4:25).  This is not the picture of a man who is another man’s slave, but a freeman every one.  Slavery is therefore something that is incompatible with the fullest expression of God’s blessing upon a people and a nation. 

Nowhere in the Bible is slavery seen as an ideal institution.  Nowhere are we justified in painting slavery as anything less than an institution whose tendency is toward dehumanizing other human beings.  Nowhere are we justified in wanting to hold on to such an institution.  It was a good thing that slavery eventually went away in the Roman Empire (well, sort of…it was eventually replaced with medieval serfdom, which was not all that different).  It was a good thing that it was outlawed in our country at the end of the Civil War.  Neither the apostle nor the Bible in general approves of slavery as an institution; neither should we.

One other observation on this point before we move on: there is a significant difference between the way the apostle speaks to slavery and the way he had spoken to marriage and parenting.  Now it is not because the relationship between masters and slaves isn’t in the same category as 5:22-6:4.  It does belong in this section because Paul is speaking to household slaves.  There were other types of slaves in the Roman Empire, but the only type of slave to whom the apostle address himself is the household slave.  It is therefore part of his instruction on the home; in the NT world, a house was often not only made up of moms and dads and kids, but also their slaves.  So the apostle addresses himself to such.

But there is a difference.  When he speaks to husbands and wives, he grounds their relationship in the relationship that Christ has with the church.  And when he speaks to the parent-child relationship, he quotes the Fifth Commandment.  He does no such thing here.  He does not ground the institution of slavery in Scripture, nor in any other theological reality.  Again, here is evidence that the apostle thought differently about slavery than he did about marriage and parenting.  Clearly.

But here is the second observation: The apostle’s exhortation to the masters contained the seeds of slavery’s demise.  So when people argue that the apostle should have exhorted slave-owners to free their slaves, they are missing the fact that ultimately that is what happened in the long run because of the principles set forward in these words, especially verse 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.”  Now I’m not aware of any law that was passed in Christian Rome that outlawed slavery; however, I don’t think it’s disputable that slavery did become more and more rare, and surely one reason for this is that Christianity teaches the equal dignity of every human being.  In other words, the fact that the apostle speaks to slave and slave-owner on the same terms, as equally valuable in the sight of God, as having the same rights to justice, must be one reason why Christians have found it so difficult to enslave others.  And that is not in spite of texts like Eph. 6:5-9, but because of texts like Eph. 6:5-9.  Therefore it should not surprise us that the main proponents of abolition even in modern times were not unbelievers but Christians.  The leader in Great Britain against the slave trade and slavery in the 19th century who almost single-handedly took it down was not just a Christian, but an evangelical Christian, William Wilberforce. 

Now all this still doesn’t quite answer the question: Why didn’t Paul command the masters to free the slaves?  So that leads me to the third and fourth observations.

Paul almost certainly didn’t command the masters to free the slaves because he cared for the slaves.  This may seem counterintuitive to modern sensibilities.  But we must realize certain things about slavery in the ancient world.  The slaves in a Christian household would have been treated well; they would have enjoyed a certain amount of freedom even (in the first century world, it was even possible for slaves to own slaves!).  In Roman society, slaves could aspire to professions such as law and medicine; whereas as freemen they would have remained uneducated and unskilled.  In other words, you shouldn’t think of the household slave as a field-hand who worked from sunup to sundown and then went to bed in a ramshackle hovel.  Rather, the household slave would have worked side-by-side with his master, and would have enjoyed similar accommodations as the rest of the family.  On the other hand, to tell a man to set his slaves free would be to enslave them in hopeless poverty.  The modern man, from his comfortable couch, might loudly proclaim his preference for poverty to slavery; I doubt many first century household slaves would have echoed this sentiment.

Again, this doesn’t mean that slavery is an inherently desirable institution, nor that we shouldn’t be glad it doesn’t exist (in the West, at least).  Nor do I mean to paint slavery as less severe than it was.  What I said about household slavery above does not describe what happened in general.  Slaves were often abused, branded, mistreated, and robbed of justice; that was the reality of their condition.  However, it is also important to recognize what the apostle surely saw; that at the time, for many slaves, their condition was an economic necessity, and that to demand their freedom would have been a crushing blow to many people, to the slaves as well as to their masters.

Now my fourth observation is this: Paul wasn’t as concerned with changing existing societal structures as he was with preparing people for heaven.  I think this is ultimately the reason Paul didn’t get on the abolitionist bandwagon.  There were so many things wrong with the Roman Empire of Paul’s day.  At the very top sat the infamous and immoral Nero.  When we look at how Paul was treated during his imprisonment, we see how inadequate the judicial system was in his day.  But Paul does not spend his time wringing his hand over how to correct the abuses of society at the political level.  Rather, he spent his time seeking to make men and women disciples of Christ so that they would know God and go on to enjoy his fellowship forever in the New Heavens and New Earth.  Of course, as people change and become salt and light, society will reflect their influence.  But that was not Paul’s immediate or primary aim; his aim was to introduce men and women to God through his Son.

There is a crucial distinction here that I think is often missed.  It is not the job of the Church qua Church to restructure the political and economic life of societies.  The job of the Church is to make disciples of all the nations.  It is to bring men and women into a relationship with God and to encourage that relationship through discipleship.  The Church is to remind men and women that we are on a journey, that we are just passing through this world and we are being ushered into the world to come.  With the Lord, the Church reminds people that they are on a road.  It is either the broad road or it is the narrow road.  Right now, the broad road is easy and the narrow road is hard.  Each road ends, but what they end in does not end.  The life that is at the end of the narrow way is a never-ending life, and the destruction that is at the end of the broad way is “everlasting punishment” (Mt. 25:46).  People need to hear that, and it is the job of the Church to say clearly and consistently.

However, that does not mean that individual Christians should not apply their Christian consciousness in this world and seek to affect it in positive ways.  John Newton was right to discourage Wilberforce from entering the ministry and instead to seek to use his influence in Parliament to end the slave trade.  Of course we try to exert our influence in this world and to change the way things are if the way things are is wrong.  Moreover, the Church must speak out against the wrongs of society and its injustices.  In our day, this would include abortion and racism and homosexuality and all the unbiblical categories with which people want to redefine who we are as male and female.

But again, the reason behind this is not so that we will have a better world in the here and now.  The reason is because people can’t come to Christ unless they repent of their sin.  And it is the job of the Church to clearly enunciate what the Bible says about sin, in order that people repent, in order that they might get right with God.  My concern with all the social justice rhetoric is that the Church is in danger of losing its focus upon the eternal, which is infinitely more important than all the temporal inequities.

The bottom line is this: the Church should so preach the gospel so that the focus is upon the eternal, and upon man’s broken relationship with God, and the need to be restored to that fellowship through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.  That doesn’t mean we retreat from society.  It doesn’t mean we don’t try to be salt and light in our world.  It doesn’t mean we don’t try to change things that are wrong.  But it does mean that we remember that this world is not our home.  It is far more important to be right with God than anything else.  Nothing else must ever eclipse our greatest need. 

It’s really a question of emphasis.  When we communicate the gospel to the world, what comes through most clearly?  That abortion is wrong?  That gay marriage is wrong?  That racism is wrong?  This is all very true, but if that’s primarily or all the world hears, then we are sending the wrong message of what the gospel is.  What the world primarily needs to hear from the Church is that men and women are sinners in the sight of God and are in danger of justly suffering his wrath forever, but that God offers his mercy now through Jesus Christ to all who repent and turn to Christ in faith.

So when Paul looked at the institution of slavery, it’s clear to me that he didn’t like what he saw.  But he wasn’t going to spend the rest of his life trying to undo a less-than-perfect institution when the main thing to do was to build the church and preach the gospel.  He only had so much time.  His perspective was eternal not temporal.  And he knew that the gospel sweetens every heart and home to which it comes and would go very far in ameliorating the more painful aspects of servitude.  That should also be our focus, both as individuals and as a church.  Believe the gospel.  And then live out the gospel in ways that are appropriate to every relationship in which you find yourself.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Harmony in the Christian Home – Ephesians 6:1-4

I think it would be safe to say that all of us want to have harmony in our homes.  We want our homes to be a safe place from all the hostility and bitterness that exists in the world.  The last thing we desire is to come home to dissension and anger and hostility and fighting.  Such an environment leaves no place for the soul to rest.  It causes husbands and wives, parents and children, to draw up into themselves and to avoid the people to whom they ought to be the closest.  If a child does not experience love and harmony in the home, we should not be surprised if they grow up to be cynical and suspicious of others.  And then they will go on to reproduce the cycle of suspicion and cynicism, hostility and anger, in their own homes. That should be the last thing we want.

Now, as Christians, we have a choice.  We may or may not have been brought up in a broken home.  We may or may not have grown up in a home were parents fought with each other and with their children.  In the end, that shouldn’t matter when it come to our homes, because we have the perfect guide, our Lord, and the perfect rule, the Scriptures.  We also have the perfect enabler, the Holy Spirit.  Our homes do not have to be a mirror image of the ones we grew up in, nor do they have to be an image of the homes so often found in Christless families. 

On the other hand, if we have grown up in a godly home, though you should thank God for this, you shouldn’t presume that you are just automatically going to reproduce this in your home.  A righteous man can have a godless son.  Godliness does not run in families; it is a gift of the grace of God.  Sin does, however, come naturally to us, and if we are not careful – even if we were raised in a consciously Christian home – we will end up reproducing an environment in our homes that is more like our godless culture than it is like the home that is the fruit of gospel living.

Now, I have preached on this passage many times.  This morning, therefore, I want to approach it from a particular point of view, from the point of view of how we can restore and secure harmony in the Christian home.  I say Christian home on purpose, because all the apostle says here is predicated on the fact that he is speaking to people who have embraced the gospel and the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives.  You see this in our text in the words “in the Lord” in verse 1 and “of the Lord” in verse 4.  The Lord is a reference to Jesus Christ.  He is our Lord, and his words and example are the pattern and motivation for the Christian home.  If you don’t embrace Christ as Lord, then it is hard to see how you could truly put these words into practice.

How then do we secure harmony in the home?  Now I am talking about harmony here.  I know that the word “harmony” is not specifically mentioned in these verses, but it is definitely implied.  Remember that everything the apostles says from 5:22 to 6:9 is predicated upon his exhortation in 5:21 – “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”  That is harmony, putting others before yourself.  It’s like what the apostle is talking about in Romans 15 when he exhorts the believers in Rome to “be likeminded one toward another” and to “receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:5, 7).  It’s what Peter is getting at when he reminds husbands and wives that they are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).  So if we put Paul’s instructions into practice, we are going to see the relationships in our homes – between husband and wife, parent and child – become increasingly harmonious and unified and loving and caring.

Now here’s something else.  Sometimes people have been so long in a bad condition that they don’t have any hope for change.  Things are just the way they are and they think they are going to stay that way.  As Christians, we don’t have to accept that!  Look, if your problems are so bad that you don’t have hope for change, then the real problem is that you don’t really believe what the Bible says about the power of God’s grace.  Our Lord said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32).  Now a lot of people quote that verse and apply it to truth in general.  But our Lord is not making a statement about truth in general, he is making a statement about the truth concerning himself.  You have to read this verse with the previous one: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  In other words, if you embrace the truth about Christ and become his disciple, then you will experience true freedom.  And the freedom he is talking about here is freedom from sin, because in verses 34 and 36 he says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin . . . if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  It could be that harmony is hard to come by in our homes.  It could be that you are very discouraged and don’t think it could ever be achieved.  But that is just to give into a lie that the Devil wants you to believe, but the Bible tells us that “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). 

Now I realize that for true harmony to exist in our homes, everyone has to participate.  However, you cannot change the other person, you can only change yourself.  So stop looking at the other person.  Consider the ways you can change.  There is freedom in that, even if the other person never changes.  The Bible never gives us the excuse that we get to wait on the other person, or if the other person doesn’t change, then we don’t have to.  That’s baloney. 

With that in mind, what does our passage say about how to achieve harmony in the home?

Well, the first thing I think we should point out is that Ephesians 5:22-33 comes before Ephesians 6:1-4.  In other words, unless husbands and wives are relating to each other the way they are supposed to relate, it’s going to be hard to have a home in which the children relate properly to the parents and the parents to the children and the children with each other.  Of course, if you don’t have children in the home, all the harmony in the home is going to come down to harmony between the husband and the wife.  So this is fundamental.

How does this look?  Let me remind you what the apostle says.  He says that wives are to submit to their husbands.  I know that this is not a popular thing to say today, but it is the Biblical thing to say.  If a wife is fundamentally unwilling to submit to her husband, and if the husband is fundamentally unwilling to lead the home, then there will be no basis for Biblical harmony in the home. 

But the husband ought never to be a tyrant or bully or center-of-the-universe in the Christian home.  Christ is Lord, not the husband.  And the husband is to lead his family, and especially his wife, in a loving manner.  He is to love his wife as himself.  He is to recognize that marriage has brought him into this “one-flesh” relationship with his wife, and on this basis he is to serve her and lead her, as Christ serves and leads the church.  If the husband truly loves his wife and is looking out for her interests and not just his own, then he will be in a position to lead her in such a way that she will willingly follow.  It will be hard, and sometimes impossible, for a wife to submit to a selfish bully.  That is not the marriage Paul is calling us to model. 

So the apostle’s words to husbands and wives are absolutely foundational to 6:1-4.  If the marriage is not right, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get the parenting right.  It will create an environment in which children will find it easy to disobey and disrespect their parents.  That doesn’t, of course, give the children an excuse for such behavior, or make it right.  But it does make it easy for sinful attitudes and behaviors to take root.  As parents, we must remember that when we sin against our spouses, it will not only affect our relationship to our spouse, our sin will also affect the people next closest to us, namely, our children.  The words of Hebrews are relevant here: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:14-15).  When bitterness between husband and wife springs up, the first people (outside the marriage) to be defiled by that are the children. 

I think this is especially important with the respect to the attitudes that the husband has toward his wife and the wife toward her husband.  Note the thing that Paul says at the end of Ephesians 5: “Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (33).  There are these two attitudes: love and reverence.  They are absolutely crucial to harmony in the home.  The husband loves his wife and does so in a way that is obvious to everyone – the wife, of course, and especially the children.  Husband, does your wife feel loved by you?  It is not enough to convince yourself that you love your wife.  You need to love her in ways that she feels loved.  If you are not doing that, you are probably not loving your wife. 

And wife, does your husband feel respected by you?  It is not enough to convince yourself that you respect him; he must feel respected by you.  By the way, the word in the KJV is better than the one used in most translations here.  Most translations use the word “respect” in verse 33.  But “reverence” is better.  It is more accurate.  The Greek word literally means “to fear.”  Of course, Paul is not saying that the wife should be afraid of her husband.  But there ought to be genuine reverence for him.  And the children ought to see that.  Do they?  Why do you think children don’t love and respect their parents?  It’s often because they don’t see the love and respect their parents ought to have for each other.  It is the first step to securing harmony in the home.

So wife, submit to your husband.  And husband, lead her in a way that is loving and fundamentally consistent with the way Christ loves and leads the church.

Next, Paul comes to the children in verse 1-3.  If there is to be harmony in the home, children must learn to obey their parents while they are at home.  And then even when they leave home and start their own families, they still show respect for their moms and dads.  That is the point of these verses.

Another way to put this is that the Christian home is not a child-centered home.  It is not a home where the children think they are the most important thing around, and where their wishes are always to be granted.  Rather, the Christian home is a Christ-centered home, in which is Lordship is respected and followed in every area of the home.  And part of being Christ-centered means following the leadership structure which he has ordained, and that means that parents lovingly lead their children and children lovingly obey their parents.

You know that you have entered a child-centered home when children are constantly interrupting their parents, when they can use manipulation and rebellion to get their way, when they can dictate the family schedule, when their needs take precedence over the needs of the spouse, when they have an equal or overriding vote in family decisions, when they can escape responsibility for their actions, when they look at their parents as if they were their peers, when they are entertained and coddled (instead of disciplined) out of a bad mood.[1]

The problem is that in many cases, the problem with children not obeying their parents is a problem with the parents not obeying Christ – that is, not willing to put in the time and effort to structure their home in the way Christ has ordained.  Yes, children are to obey their parents and this is addressed to them and they are accountable to obey their parents, but it is also the parent’s responsibility to see that the children understand that this is how they are expected to behave and to explain (as appropriate) why it is this way.

Speaking of reasons why, do you notice that the apostle spends most of his time in verses 1-3 giving such reasons?  There are three of them.  One reason is from nature: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  Charles Hodge commenting on this phrase, writes, “It is not because of the personal character of the parent, nor because of his kindness, nor on the ground of expediency, but because it is ‘right;’ an obligation arising out of the nature of the relation between parents and children, and which must exist wherever the relation itself exists.”[2]  Nature and just plain reason ought to tell us that parents are the natural choice for the direction of the life of their children.  To replace the parent with a nameless bureaucracy, as seems to be occurring in the West, is unnatural and unwise. Therefore, it is right and natural for children to obey their parents and wrong and unnatural for them to rebel against their direction and authority.

Another reason the apostle gives is from Scripture, straight out of the Ten Commandments: “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (2-3).  It bothers me the way some evangelicals speak about the OT.  One prominent evangelical pastor says that we need to unhinge our faith from the OT.  But Paul never did that.  If you unhinge your faith from OT, you will also have to unhinge your faith from the NT.  They go together.  Yes, there is discontinuity but there is also continuity.  The discontinuity shows up here in the way Paul generalizes the promise.  In the Ten Commandments, the promise was that obedient children would have long life in the land of Canaan.  Paul generalizes this to long life on the earth, because the church is no longer tied to a specific geographic location.  However, there is also the obvious continuity.  The moral law still applies.  Paul is basing NT ethical commands on OT ethical commands.  The reason is obvious: the God of the OT is the God of the NT.  To deny this is to fall into the second-century heresy of Marcionism and to undermine the moral basis of the NT ethic.

Now, this ought to tell you children just how important it is to obey your parents.  God thought it so important that he did two things: first, he put in the Ten Commandments, which was a summary of how the life of the godly man or woman is to live before God.  It’s right there next to, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  It’s right there next to, “Thou shalt not murder.”  This is clearly serious, and you see how serious it is when you look at how rebellious children were dealt with under the Law.  In a word, they were stoned!  Now, here is another point of discontinuity, in that the punishments of the Law no longer apply to the church.  But we should not think that God has softened in his view towards children who rebel against their parents.  The Law remains a reminder of just how God continues to think of it.

Then the next thing God did was to attach a promise to this commandment.  Now this has given commentators a lot of indigestion because of the fact Paul says that this is “the first commandment with promise.”  The problem is that there is a promise attached to the second commandment.  However, I think that the solution is that the promise attached to the second commandment is not specific to that commandment but is a promise (or a threat) of how God will act toward all who disobey any of his commandments.  Thus, the promise attached to the Fifth Commandment is the first promise attached to a specific commandment.  But there’s another problem then.  There are no other promises attached to any other commandments in the Ten Commandments!  So why would Paul say it is the first commandment with a promise?  The solution is surely that when Paul says this is the first commandment with a promise, he is not thinking only of the Ten Commandments, but the whole Law which includes the Ten Commandments.  This is a consistent and satisfactory solution.

The point is that God gave a promise to this commandment.  It’s that important to him.  It’s not only that you should obey your parents because it’s the right thing to do, but also because God has created this world so that obedience would be rewarded and disobedience would be punished.  That is the point of the promise.  It is not that there are not exceptions to the rule.  But exceptions do not negate the rule, and the rule – the promise – is that if you obey your parents, you are putting yourself in a position to be blessed.  On the other hand, children who do not obey their parents are setting themselves up for failure and disappointment in life.  This is why it is so important for parents to shepherd their children rightly and to command their obedience and respect.  Proverbs 29:15 says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bring shame to his mother” (ESV).

And then the most important reason Paul gives for children to obey their parents is from the gospel: I get this from the phrase “in the Lord” (1).  This is an unmistakable reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.  In a Christian home, everything is to be flavored by the gospel, including the way children relate to their parents.  Children need to understand that our homes stand under the Lordship of Christ and that this is a good thing not a bad thing.  Christ died for our sins that we might have eternal life.  This is not the act of a tyrant.  This is not the act of someone who is using you for selfish and unloving ends.  This is the generous and loving act of a Savior who gave his life so that his people might have never-ending and ever-increasing joy.  So if obedience to parents is something he commands, we can be sure that it is for our good.

At the same time, the gospel reminds us that obedience to any authority is not the basis of our salvation; that basis of our salvation is Christ.  Thus, where the gospel flavors the home life, it will temper the parent’s upbringing of their children, so that it is not done in a legalistic, mechanical, lifeless, and loveless atmosphere.  Yes, we expect obedience from our children, but we also give them grace, because that is just the way our Savior relates to us.

And that brings us to verse 4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” 

First of all, Paul addresses fathers in particular here because fathers are the leaders in the home.  It was that way in the general culture as well.  But this does not preclude mothers.  It is the ultimate responsibility of the father to make sure his children are being educated and brought up in a way that is consistent with the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  But of course the mother plays an important and crucial role here as well and she should hear these verses addressed to herself too. 

In our day, though, I think it is good that Paul put “fathers” here, because in our culture, men are more likely than not to leave the child-rearing to the mother.  This is true I think in Christian and non-Christian homes.  But this is not Biblical.  Fathers, God holds you just as responsible for the upbringing of your children.  We need to invest in our children, our sons and our daughters, and this doesn’t begin and end in bringing home the bacon.  It means that you are actively participating in their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development. 

Note what Paul says: “in the nurture (paideia) and admonition (nouthesia) of the Lord.”  Now this word “nurture” includes the total development and training of the child.  The Greeks used this word to refer to the development of culture in their citizens.  In other words, this means all that goes into the training of a child and the outlook that they develop as a result of that.  Of course, for different people this means different things.  For the ancient Spartans, it means developing a sense of total submission to the state; that was their culture.  For the ancient Athenians, it meant something different: for them the development of culture meant educating their citizens so that they developed physical and spiritual maturity so that they became responsible individuals who could serve the state.[3] 

For the Christian, it means something entirely different: it means training our children so that they develop a Biblical worldview centered on Christ.  This is the meaning of the phrase “of the Lord” in verse 4.  We are not interested merely that they can read and write.  We want them to read and write and think and do art and science and everything else to the glory of God.  We want them to live out the answer to the first question in the Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” 

One of the ways we do this is by instruction and admonition.  Parents, you must teach your children the right way.  They will not absorb it by some process of osmosis.  They must hear from you the truth of God’s word.  If you share the gospel with anyone, share it with your children.  Teach them the Bible.  Teach them theology.  Memorize the Bible with them.  Sing it with them.  Let them know why you believe what you believe.  Don’t just expect them to embrace your worldview, because there are plenty of influences out there in the world who would love to draw your children away from the faith.  Make it interesting.  Show them that it is freeing.  Adorn the gospel of God our Savior in all things, especially in front of your children.  Back it up with your life.

If they truly embrace, along with their parents, the gospel, that is the truest way to harmony in the home.  But there are ways to sabotage this nurture and admonition, and that is why the apostle put in those words, “fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.”  In Colossians, Paul writes, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21).  Are your children angry, angry with you?  It could be that they are angry because you have provoked them. 

There are any number of ways this could happen.  Let me list a few.[4]  It could happen because of marital disharmony, as we’ve already pointed out.  It could happen because you are modeling sinful anger in front of them, blowing up at each other and at your children.  It could happen because when you do discipline them, even if they are wrong, you discipline them in anger.  As Lloyd-Jones put it, “We are incapable of exercising true discipline unless we are first able to exercise self-control, and discipline our own tempers.”[5]  Another consequence of this is scolding our children, which happens when we are unable to talk to our children in a natural tone of voice.  Along the same lines is a parent who disciplines their children in front of others, adding insult to injury.  In some sense this is a lack of discipline, refusing to make a place and a time in which correction can be administered in a way consistent with both justice and the dignity of the child.  We can provoke them to anger when we refuse to listen to the child’s side of the story, when we rush to judgment before we have had the opportunity to hear from them what happened.

There are other ways.  For example, when we live a double life in front of them, when we tell them to do one thing and then do another.  We can do it when we refuse to admit we are wrong and don’t ask their forgiveness when we have sinned against them.  We can do it when we are constantly finding fault with them, when we refuse to praise them for their successes but always point out their failures.  We can do it when we continually compare them to others, especially to their siblings or perhaps someone else’s child.

It is always the easiest thing to do to blame someone else when our homes are not the way they ought to be.  But if our homes are disordered, the very first place we need to look is in the mirror.  If you provoke your children to anger, and you don’t repent, Paul says that this will lead to discouragement.  And if that is not relieved, it will inevitably lead to rebellion.  In other words, the failure of parents to pay attention to verse 4 leads to children who don’t pay attention to verses 1-3. 

If we want harmony in the home, we need to take heed to all the apostle’s instructions, including his words to wives, husbands, children, and parents.  If there is not harmony in the home, on any level, it is because we are left off obeying God’s word to us in these verses.

And harmony is what we should expect in the Christian home.  It ought to be the outworking of God reconciling us to himself through Jesus Christ and bringing harmony between us and God.  If we have experienced this, it ought to show in practical, daily ways in our homes.  Remember that these instructions flow out of the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit in 5:18.  The promise of the Spirit is the gift of Christ, given to those who believe in the Son of God.  And if we live in the Spirit, we ought to walk in the Spirit, not provoking one another, but exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (cf. Gal. 5:22-26).

[1] I got this list from The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo (Grace and Truth Books, 2015), p. 24.
[2] Charles Hodge, Ephesians (Banner of Truth, 1991 [reprint, 1856 ed.]), p. 262.
[3] Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, (Zondervan, 1986), p. 775.
[4] Again, this list comes from Lou Priolo’s book, The Heart of Anger, chapter 2, p. 29-51.
[5] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit, (Baker, 1974), p. 278.

The Christian Work Ethic: Ephesians 6:5-8

Back in chapter 4, we noted that the apostle commends and commands labor.   In other words, he speaks to the morality of labor: “Let ...