God’s Household Rules: Marriage and Family (11)
1. Two weeks ago, as we looked at Ephesians 6:1-3 on the relationships between parents and children, we said that Christian children, in order to live out the Gospel in the home, in order to live out their embrace of the Lordship of Christ, must obey their parents, because it is right, commanded and rewarded.
2. Last week, in Ephesians 6:4, we listened as Paul turned our attention to Christian parents and gives us a profound directive regarding the Christian nurture of their children. It begins with a negative and moves to a positive command. Do not . . . but.
3. We focused on two aspects of this passage: (1) that Christian parents (and especially fathers) are to take care not to provoke their children (4a) [we saw this negative directive as entailing a number of things both negative and positive, such as - 1. Not expecting more or less of our children than they are capable of doing or giving. 2. Being careful about the way we reprimand and correct. 3. Practicing what we preach. Avoiding double standards or hypocrisy. 4. Imparting the faith via prayer, personal example, precept (in that order). 5. Deliberately cultivating good times with our children. 6. Freely communicating love and affection. 7. Allowing them to fail and make mistakes–let them know love not conditioned on perfection. 8. Making expectations, rules and regulations know to them, and reasonable. 9. Admitting our mistakes, sins and asking forgiveness when we fail them.10. Making it easy and desirable for them to approach us. (2) that Christian parents are to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (4b). Here we said that the third baptismal vow, taken by all parent upon the baptism of covenant children is most relevant: "3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before (him) a godly example, that you will pray with and for (him), that you will teach (him) the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the means of God's appointment, to bring (him) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? I do."
4. We also found a quote from William Still to be inspiring, challenging and instructive: "Every autumn I have a spate of letters from fond parents, teachers, guardians, and monitors, appealing to me to follow up on such and such a youngster who is away from home at college for the first time, and who has to be hunted, followed, shadowed, intercepted and driven to Christian meetings. I have scarcely ever known this desperate technique to work. I understand the panic of parents and guardians, but it is too late then to try high pressure tactics. Prayer, example and precept, in that order, are the means of bringing up children and young folk in the faith. Nor will high pressure tactics and brainwashing techniques avail when young folk have gone off on their own. Some young folk, alas, will have their fling and sow their wild oats, and come at last to heel, sadly, like the prodigal son. It is where Christians pathetically put their trust in external techniques and artificial stratagems that young folk go astray. Nothing takes the place of the realism of holy living and secret wrestling before God in prayer for our youngsters. We must commit them to God so utterly that we dare not interfere or tamper with their precious souls." (William Still, late Pastor of Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen, Scotland)
5. Tonight, we turn to an awkward, but important subject. Paul’s instructions to slaves/servants in Ephesians 6:5-9.
Ephesians 6:5-9 5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
I. The significance of Paul’s words for Christian masters and slaves in the first century
Stott's obervations on Roman slave culture in the days of Paul:
1. A high percentage of the population of the Roman empire was made up of slaves.
2. This entailed not only domestic servants and manual laborers, but also doctors, teachers and administrators.
3. Slaves could be inherited, purchased, taken because of bad debt, or as prisoners of war.
4. No one questioned the arrangement (though Seneca will argue for good treatment of slaves).
5. The dehumanization of slaves is mirrored in the Roman legislation. They were chattel.
6. The fact that Paul addresses slaves here is yet another indication that they were an accepted part of the Christian community.
*Notice the radical Christ-centeredness of his instruction (5,6,7,8). Slaves are to be, respectful (5), whole-hearted (6), conscientious (7a), and willing (7b) in their work for their earthly masters, but they are to do so "as unto the Lord." They are to view their labor Christologically.
*Meanwhile, Masters are instructed to consider their duties to their slaves Christologically. They are to show them reciprocity and justice (9a), they are not to threaten them (9b), and they are to do this because they themselves have a Master in heaven (9c), and that Master will be impartial in his final judgment, even if their present culture and judicial system is not (9d).
What in Christianity undermined slavery?
*The fact that Paul treats of the subject of Master-slave relations under the rubric of the household codes is significant. Even in this relationship, the Christian is expected to live out the Gospel and the Lordship of Christ.
* Charles Hodge's discussion of slavery in this passage is brilliant.
* How did Christianity dostrinally undermine slavery? Through at least important truths:
1. The common Lordship of Christ over Master and slave
2. The demand for reciprocity/justice for the slave (see also Colossians)
3. The doctrine of union with Christ, adoption and brotherhood (see also Philemon).
II. The significance of Paul’s words for us in our various roles in vocations today