A New Race of Human … Commentary on Ephesians, Pt. 5

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series A New Race of Human

Be made new in the attitude of your mind.
Ephe 4:12

Earlier in the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul had explained that as believers we’re the inheritors of the Universe, so overwhelmingly loved by our Creator that we’ve been lavished with every sort of spiritual blessing, raised up and seated in the Heavenlies at the side of our Redeemer. Not will be … have been! Now he’s admonishing us to act as if we believe that. Having counseled the Church on proper behavior toward God and other believers, Paul turns next to family relationships.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephe. 5:21-33)

The marital relationship is designed to parallel the one between our Lord and His church. Even though He is Lord of all, with power and authority superior to any title that can be given, (Ephe. 1:21) His love for the Church is the epitome of self-sacrifice. Because of this the Church never feels any fear or uncertainty in Her submission to Him, and willingly follows where He leads.

Just what are the defining characteristics of this love? Well, it’s obvious that the Church has been His consuming desire. He lived that she might come into existence and be set apart. He longed for her to know how much He loved her. His every word and action brought honor and expressed His devotion to her. He dedicated Himself to her and covered all her imperfections with His love. And finally, He gave His life for her.

It is to this extent that a husband is called upon to love his wife, irrespective of her merit. And for her part, I suggest that any woman would feel comfortable placing herself in submission to a man who loved her like that, especially since it’s a voluntary submission for the purpose of pleasing the Lord. There’s not even a hint of inequality in this passage, and as a matter of fact, the New Testament as a whole is one of the most liberating documents for women ever written.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise– “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephe. 6:1-4)

One of the conditions for peace and prosperity in the Promised Land was for children to respect their parents. (Exodus 20:12) The Lord wanted the same level of respect shown by children toward their parents as that which He commanded the parents to show Him. An indication of how strongly He felt about this is found in the fact that habitual rebellion against parental authority was a capital offense in Israel (Deut. 21:18-21)

New Testament fathers are especially cautioned in raising their children. With his superior size and strength, a father can intimidate his children, impose arbitrary rules and inconsistent discipline, and in other ways provoke his children to anger or frustration. (How would you like someone 18 feet tall bossing you around?) Studies show that as they mature, children often adopt the view of God that most nearly approximates their experience with their fathers. Fathers are admonished to nurture the mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical development of their children. Between loving their wives and nurturing their children, men are given the awesome responsibility of emulating the Lord Himself in their families.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Ephe 6:5-9)

Hebrew slaves in Israel were former free men who became indentured servants to work off debts, there being no other remedy for overwhelming indebtedness. Every 7 years in Israel all Hebrew slaves had to be released, their debts canceled, and a small stake given them to help them get started again. (Deut. 15:12-18) As this scripture indicates, a Hebrew slave could attach himself to his master’s household at the end of his service, and convert to a life of voluntary servitude, but in the Greek and Roman societies, a lifetime of slavery was not uncommon. And since no self-respecting Greek or Roman citizen actually worked, some communities included as many slaves as free men. They often came from the ranks of defeated armies or from the populations of cities that unsuccessfully resisted attacking forces.

Regardless of how they became slaves, Paul admonished them to work as if for the Lord and look to Him for their reward. Masters were warned that they too had a Master, the One in Heaven Who would show them no favoritism if they mistreated those under their authority.

But lest you think that this section no longer applies, most of us are very much like those described as slaves in Paul’s time. The major difference is that we think we’re free. If you’re a typical American, each year you work until sometime in mid-May to pay all the obvious and hidden taxes you owe, and then your house and car payments, credit card and other consumer debt can take nearly half all that’s left. So you actually have only about 20% of your supposed income left to cover your living expenses. Many could not survive more than a few weeks if their income suddenly stopped. So don’t kid yourself, we’re every bit as enslaved as our ancestors. To make the passage above more real for you, just substitute the word employee for slave and the word employer for master.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephe. 6:10-12)

Having begun with the view that our blessings extend beyond the physical world into the spiritual realm, Paul ends with a warning that our enemies come from there as well. Their power being so far superior to ours, our only defense against them is spiritual. This passage reminds me of the boy David, looking so ridiculous in Saul’s man-made armor. (1 Sam. 17:38-39) Had he gone forth to meet Goliath in that outfit, he would have surely been defeated. But clothed in the invisible Armor of God, he was victorious.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephe.6:13-20)

Here I picture Paul with a Roman soldier in view, comparing his manmade armor to our spiritual protection. Being so precious to God, we’re desirable targets for the enemy. And just as no soldier would ever go to war without first donning full battle dress, so should we always make sure we’re fully protected. Encircled by the truth, clothed in righteousness, armed with His Word, and protected by our faith and the knowledge of our salvation, we wield the ultimate weapon, our spirit-led prayers.

God had promised David the Kingdom of Israel. Goliath had publicly offended David’s Lord. Believing that God couldn’t lie led David to conclude that he couldn’t be killed before God’s promises came true, and since someone had to stop Goliath, who better than one who couldn’t lose. The possibility of defeat never entered his mind as he ran onto the battleground. Goliath’s size was immaterial, God was bigger. David refused to be intimidated and on his first shot felled the giant.

You also have been promised a Kingdom, and the enemy who taunts you has certainly offended your Lord. If you believe that God cannot lie, then you know the devil can’t beat you. Donning the full armor of God you run onto the battleground without ever considering the possibility of defeat. The enemy’s size is immaterial, God is bigger. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8) Refuse to be intimidated and your spirit-led prayers will fell your enemy.

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Amen. Next time, summary and conclusion. See you then. 08-29-04