Our study of Ephesians has brought us to ask a real personal question: Does what I believe change the way I live? There is no such thing as a Sunday Christian. Why? Because being a follower of Jesus is not something you turn on once a week when you are around other Christians. It is not a religion you join, nor a building you attend for group activities. Following Jesus means that one has turned from the ways of the world, repented of their sins, and embraced a personal relationship with a God who has pursued, called, awakened, and renewed us. In the first 3 chapters of Ephesians, we find the theological truths of our saving faith in Christ – of being blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3). It might be a good time to re-read the first 3 chapters of Ephesians before moving on!
The reality of being a new creation in Christ demands a lifestyle change. Paul says it like this, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). So what kind of life are you living? Look at the fruit! Don’t look too far – look at your household, and your work. Has Jesus changed your family and your outlook on work? That is the litmus test Paul lays before us today. Last week we were forced to examine our relationship with our spouse – has being in Christ changed our marriage? Have we come in line with the teaching of God’s word, both individually as husband and wife, and together as a couple representing Christ and His Church? Love and Respect should be the hallmarks of a Christ-centered marriage (Eph. 5:21-33).
Family Life (vs. 1-4)
Continuing with aligning our life under Christ, Paul exhorts children to “obey” their parents, which literally means, listen to their teaching and submit to it. Paul says that disobedience to parents is a sign of a deteriorating and godless society (See 2Tim. 3:1-2). As followers of Jesus, and those who do not belong to the world, our families should demonstrate the opposite of what is going on in the world. Why? Because we are “in the Lord”. Children should be taught to obey, and honor their father and mother. It is a commandment that stems all the way back to the Law of God given to the newly formed redeemed community (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16), and applies to us as the newly formed covenant community in Christ (Col. 3:20-21). There is a blessing to children if they submit to this exhortation – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth”. What a promise! Notice how Paul writes this instruction directly to the children. Paul’s letters were read in the church to the whole congregation. As the elder read the letter, he addressed everyone present with a special command, including the children. We may live in a different era, but I believe it is still a pertinent instruction to children that parents need to review with their children regularly – children, obey your parents!. And the precedent is there for the church to encourage family instruction and discipline. Was there a corporate accountability for the whole community to uphold this instruction? I believe so. Hence the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”. There are many Old Testament and New Testament passages dealing with the raising of children. The book of Proverbs is a valuable tool for parents on how to raise and discipline children. Fathers are to take the lead in this area, as Ephesians 6:4 clearly teaches. Fathers are to lead in training and instruction in the Lord, without causing their children to become angry. In summary, Paul clearly teaches that being “in Christ” should dramatically affect our marriages and our families.
Servants (vs. 5-9)
Many households had slaves or servants in the Roman Empire. It is well documented that about a third of the population were slaves….some 60 million of them. Many were becoming Christians, as were the leaders of the households in which they worked. This seems absolutely abhorrent to us today, but it was a 1st century reality. Many apply this passage by paralleling it with modern day work/employment, and apply it to submitting to managers, bosses, and superiors in the workplace. The general principle is that we need to submit to our “earthly masters” as we would submit to Christ. We need to remember that ultimately, everything we do is “as unto the Lord”. As verse 6 states, we are slaves of Christ. He is our Master, and it is His will we desire to perform. We are to serve wholeheartedly, because we are working for Jesus not for earthly masters. He is the one who will reward us for our obedience and behavior. If we happen to find ourselves in a leadership role, we are to treat those under our supervision with love and respect, compassion and mercy, since we are serving Christ. In this situation, the golden rule our Master taught applies, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Read the letter of Philemon!
As I contemplate the practical component of my Christian life, whether in the home or at work, or in everyday living, I am reminded of our Savior who modeled a life laid down to serve others. Paul’s words from Ephesians 5 come back to me, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2). Jesus humbled Himself, and took the role of a servant. He submitted Himself to His Father. If there is one area where the Christ follower’s life is affected, it is in the way we voluntarily lay down our life to serve our God, our family, our co-workers, and our world, so that we can put Christ on display. Jesus said that we are truly His disciples if we obey Him (John 14:15, 21). He also commanded His followers to teach other followers to obey His commands (Matt. 28:20). The Christian life is characterized by obedience. It should be taught and modeled to all, especially to members of our household. Then, Jesus promises to be with us always (Matt. 28:20).Take some time this week to evaluate the changes Jesus has made in you, or the ones you need to make to line up with obeying Him. Obedience is the Christian life!