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Ephesians XXI: The Splendor of Submission III - Ephesians 6:1-9

The basic thrust of each of the four instructions for submission that God gives in these verses is simple, but we need God’s help to joyfully embrace His commands. Children, the first command is for you: obey your parents. This is what God wants you to do, and He gives you three good reasons: obey in the Lord, because Jesus wants you to; obey because it’s right, because this is the way God meant it to be; and obey because God has a special promise of blessing for those who honor their parents with obedience. You need to obey your parents in everything: obey when they teach you God’s rules, especially the Ten Commandments and the Two Greatest Commandments; obey them when they make house rules for your home, and obey every command they give you in the moment. Honoring your mother and father with obedience means obeying all the way, right away, and cheerfully. Children, God’s word for you today is this: obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Next, Paul turns to fathers, and tells them not to provoke their children to anger. Most fathers don’t do this intentionally, but many tend to take any pushback or frustration on the part of their child as a sign of rebellion in the child, rather than signaling provocation. Both are possibilities, and where a foolish father will simply plow ahead and demand submission, a wise father will examine himself to see if he is the one who needs to change. Parents do have real authority, but if they wield it in harsh and critical ways, if they make foolish and selfish rules, or if they choose to minimize discipline and simply affirm their children’s preferences, then they are provoking their children. If anger and resentment are building in the hearts of your children, then you need to submit your parenting to God, and make changes for the good of your family!

Paul addresses servants next, and since we’re no longer dealing with slavery, we need to acknowledge that applying these verses to our lives takes a few more steps than the instructions to parents and children. Many people apply these verses to the employer/employee relationship, and an even closer parallel would be military service, where joining the service is far more serious than taking a job, and the level of authority that a commanding officer is given far exceeds that of a boss or a manager. The unifying point though, is that whatever our vocation, we all need to render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man. So examine your heart: is that the kind of work you turned in last week? And prepare your heart: are you going to give a sincere effort this coming week?

Bondservants of Christ, you need to understand that in your vocation, you are both serving Christ, that is, as if He is the one who benefits from your work, and serving on behalf of Christ, as a temporary worker on loan from Heaven’s employment agency, with Heaven’s reputation resting on the quality of your work. Your motivation for faithful service comes from the assurance that whatever good you do will be rewarded by the Lord, whether your earthly master notices or not.

In v.9, Paul passes on Jesus’ instructions to masters. If you are a Christian master, then your servants should see you serving Christ with fear and trembling. They should know that you will never ask them to sin, cheat them, or take advantage of them. You must not use threats or coercion to get things done, because you know that however high you are up the company ladder, God is still looking down on you from heaven, and He is not impressed with your title or your portfolio. Every command you give, every duty you require should involve your servants in doing the will of God from the heart, using their labor to serve God and neighbor.

God calls every Christian to submit to one another along the lines of these relationships out of reverence for Christ. But “reverence for Christ” is not a burden that God places on our shoulders to guilt us into obedience. Reverence for Christ is what flows out of a heart that is grateful to God that sinners like us have been loved, redeemed, and saved by grace alone.

Our reverence for Jesus energizes us to love and honor and obey those around us and connected to us. And here’s God’s plan: when the Church lives this way, our submission along these lines produces a spotless bride, clothed in splendor, beautifully dressed for Christ her husband. Submission makes you beautiful to Jesus. Therefore, let us submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Posted on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 by CJ Bowen