May 27, 2014
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 27 May 2014
Ephesians 5:22—6:9 addresses how various households are to conduct themselves, which is one means by which “the manifold wisdom of God” is made known (3:1). The responsibilities are also application of the exhortation to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (5:15). Through our marriages and families, we interact with the society in which we live. Marriage brings us into contact with another family (i.e. “in-laws”) and children cause us to develop our relationships with many social structures.
The arrangement of the relationships in Ephesians 5:22—6:9 seems to be in order of importance. The husband and wife relationship is first because it is permanent and foundational to society. The parent and child relationship is important but not permanent because the child must leave home and cleave to another in a manner more intimately than is possible with one’s parents. Work is also important but may be temporary and even changing. Therefore, work must not destroy the family, and the family must not ruin marriage.
When children obey their parents, it “is right” as unto the Lord. Obedience to parents is a demonstration that children are filled (and thereby controlled) by the Holy Spirit. Verses 1-4 provide three reasons why children are to obey their parents: (1) it is pleasing to the Lord; (2) it results in blessing to the child; and, (3) it leads children to be obedient to the Lord. Fathers are not to “provoke” (exasperate) their “children to anger.” Exasperation would result from comparing children to one another, expecting perfection, misusing authority, ridiculing weaknesses, unjust discipline, and withdrawing affection.
Parents are to rear their children by exhorting and nurturing them, always being mindful that inward conviction is the goal (as opposed to outward conformity). A child’s education begins at birth. Prior to their ability to reason, children adopt attitudes, feelings, habits, and responses that constitute their life and personality. Parents rear their children by both behavior and word; children tend to adopt behavior first and their parent’s admonition and training secondarily. Consequently, parents must learn obedience to the Lord for them to demand obedience from their children.
Employees (“slaves”) are to “be obedient to those who are” their employers (“master”). Obedience and respect is given due to the authority, whether it is an internally-earned authority (Gk. dunamis) or externally-conferred authority (Gk. exousia) (cf. 5:21, 33; 1 Pet 3:1-6). If an employer wrongs an employee, the matter is to be committed to the Lord who judges righteously (cf. 1 Pet 2:18-25). The employee works primarily to please the Lord—“as slaves of Christ”—not the employer.
Employers are to treat their employees with the same biblical principles that their employees demonstrate toward them. Employers are not to use gratuitous pressure; rather, they should seek to earn the obedience of their employees. The employer is also a slave of Christ, and the employee has freedom in the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 7:22).
Obedience implies cheerful and voluntary performance “to those who are your masters according to the flesh.” Service may be involuntary, but working “as to Christ” is done with voluntary obedience. Obedience is commanded in its true and proper connotation, that is, “as to Christ” (Eph 6:5). Biblical obedience is contrasted with involuntary service (i.e. being coerced to comply with the employer’s directions). Obedience is not mere subjection. Verses 6-7 instruct obedience to involve “doing the will of God from the heart, with good will” and rendering “service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Colossians 3:23 reads likewise: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
When the dynamics of redemptive grace affect work and good works follow in the recognition of Christ’s lordship, the entire attitude between employee and employer is transformed. The biblical message is truly a revolutionizing power for reforming economic conditions and transforming the psychology of labor. The heart attitude of the laborer is certainly redemptive, and the absence of it is the basic economic problem.
The implications of obedience for the “free” are also significant, which is apparent from verse 8. First Corinthians 7:22 reads likewise: “the Lord’s freedman . . . is Christ’s slave.” A freedman is not bound to the service of another, but when such an individual commences service to an employer, then the obligation of obedience is to result. The reality of bond-service does not necessitate obedience; rather, the biblical ethic for employee and employer relationships is the foundation. If the biblical order is maintained, there will be radical transformation with regard to authority and obedience.
If applied, the biblical ethic means that labor is not a burden; rather, it can be a pleasure. Freedom and authority are not mutually exclusive; therefore, obedience to God (or man) is not contrary to freedom. To dismiss the biblical ethic with regard to employee and employer will result in another form of slavery because totalitarianism does not allow for freedom. Scripture commands obedience with a recognition that authority is of divine origin and institution. God’s Word does promote freedom because only God is the lord of the conscience, and has made his Word free from the commandments and doctrines of men. The law of the Lord is perfect, and obedience to it does bring great reward. Scripture is truly the charter for justice and liberty, and equity and truth.
With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, (Eph 6:7)
REMINDER: next Tuesday (2nd of June) isthe monthly (interim) Capitol Commission Bible StudyRoom 123 CAP, Georgia Capitol, @ 12 Noon