Following Christ and Authority
Ephesians 6:1–9 (NIV)
Main Idea: Paul gives a variety of instructions to various members of the Christian household on how to think and conduct themselves as believers in their respective roles. A focus on knowing the Lord and pleasing him is the primary motivation for each member of the household for fulfilling their role obligations. Clinton Arnold
Ephesians 6:1–9 (NIV) 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 9 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.
The remarkable thing about this passage, both the commands to children and parents and those to slaves and masters, is that the children and slaves evidently have, in Paul’s eyes, what we would call ‘rights’ as well as the parents and masters. When ancient philosophers drew up codes of behaviour, as they did from time to time, the weight was always the other way round. Slaves and children were to be obedient, and that was the end of it. Now Paul insists on a mutual responsibility: parents must behave appropriately towards children, which means not being harsh and provoking children so that they become bitter and want to rebel or run away. Masters must remember that they, too, have a Master—the Lord Jesus himself. The final phrase says it all: there is no respect of persons before the Messiah. Paul comes back to this point frequently in his writings, whether he is referring to the equality of Jew and Gentile before the gospel, the equality of Christians from different backgrounds within the church, or, as here, the equality of masters and slaves. Underneath what we see as his ‘ethics’ there is a strong and firmly rooted moral point: that the one true God is a God of justice and judgment, and there is no pulling the wool over his eyes. – N.T. Wright
The Greek word for “fathers” in verse 4 can mean “parents,” but more likely Paul is turning attention specifically to fathers. Fathers had legal control of children and were responsible for their instruction from about age seven. Girls did not normally receive formal education, but were taught household duties. Leon Morris is probably correct in saying it is significant that Paul wrote “children” instead of “boys.”12 Girls were valued less in ancient society, but Paul did not accept such a limitation. In the ancient world fathers had absolute control and were sometimes harsh; that is why Paul includes the warning against provoking children to anger. The verb used for “exasperate” is rare and appears elsewhere in the New Testament only at Romans 10:19 (NIV, “make you angry”). The noun form occurs only in the prohibition of anger in Ephesians 4:26. “Bring them up” does not do justice to the notion of care expressed by the verb, particularly since Paul’s previous use of the verb in 5:29 (NIV, “feeds”) conveys the idea of “nurture.” “Instruction” translates a word that often connotes “warning” or “admonition,” but “training and instruction” is probably an instance of two nouns expressing one concept, explaining the teaching that fathers are to do. – Klyne Snodgrass
Lord’s Day 39 Q. What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?
That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother
and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline;1 and also that I be patient with their failings—2 for through them God chooses to rule us.3
1 Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-4:1 2 Prov. 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pet. 2:18 3 Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21