All In, with Kirk Crossing
All In, with Kirk Crossing
Master Plan (9) – Ephesians 5.22-6.9
In this section of Ephesians, Paul continues to answer the question, ‘in light of what God has done for us, what does He require of us?’  Pushing beyond the walls of the Church and beyond individual morality/ethics, he applies God’s Master Plan to our homes and our work life.  God’s Master Plan calls for us to honor His design in home and work relationships.
In this section, Paul addresses three key relationships which would have existed in many ancient households: the marriage relationship, the parent/child relationship, and the master/slave relationship.  His message would have been as challenging and surprising to people in the first century as it may seem to us today.
He teaches that, by God’s design, wives are to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ as its head.  At its heart, this is a call to wives to recognize and honor the spiritual headship of their husbands.  This does not mean that wives are lesser persons, cannot make decisions and contribute to setting the direction for their families, lose their identities, or are subject to rude, arrogant, abusive treatment from their husbands.  Paul’s teaching in this area is completed in his instructions to husbands that they are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church.  This would have been a somewhat revolutionary teaching for men in the ancient world and continues to be a very high standard for husbands today.
Paul also teaches that children are to both obey and honor their parents.  This means both complying with what parents instruct and also living a life that honors their parents’, especially taking care of them in their older age.  Paul completes this are of teaching by instructing parents (especially fathers) not to provoke their children to anger.  Parenting is not to be done through intimidation, humiliation, or harshness but, rather, through discipling children to know the Lord and grow as His children.
Finally, Paul teaches that Christian masters and slaves are to conduct themselves very differently than the norm in the wider culture.  He speaks to this relationship because around a third of people living in the Mediterranean world in this time period were part of the ‘slave class’.  This was not a God-ordained social or economic system but one, however, in which a great many people lived.
The other major reason Paul speaks to this relationship is the fact that both masters and slaves were becoming Christians and so were together as full members of the Body of Christ.  Paul’s instruction is that slaves were to do their work with a respect for the authority over them, sincerity, and integrity.  Likewise, masters were not to demean slaves or treat them harshly but were to act with sincerity, integrity, and fairness themselves.
By way of application for us, we can discern that God’s Master Plan calls for us to recognize that marriage points beyond itself to the work of Christ, that discipleship begins at home, and that our faith goes with us to work.
* not the race-based institution which comprised chattel slavery in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries but one in which people from nearly every people group found themselves as a result of wars, indebtedness, etc. and which included highly skilled and educated workers such as teachers, business managers, doctors, and accountants