Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Christian Service

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Christian Service”
First Published: August 1, 2006

This past Lord’s day we began a new Sunday morning series, as a part of our larger study of God’s New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians. The new series is called: God’s Household Rules: Marriage and Family. Over the weeks to come, we will not dodge hard issues relating to the relationships between husbands and wives (“Obey him? Are you kidding?” “Love her like Christ loves the church? Get real!”), marriage and family (“How can we live out God’s design for marriage in an age of gender confusion and marital dissolution?”), parenting and children (“What are the mutual obligations of Christian parents and children?”), masters and servants (“Does the Bible condone slavery?” “Can Paul really speak out of his cultural situation to ours?”).

On Sunday, we looked at Ephesians 5:21, as a key verse, setting the stage for what is coming in Ephesians 5:22-6:9. When you enter into this new section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:22-6:9), you immediately realize that this passage deals with our household relationships from a Christian perspective. If we are God’s new community, then what should our family life look like? How are we to be different from the world? Paul tells us here. He deals with husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and servants – the sphere of the household in biblical and Mediterranean culture. The timeliness of this for us is obvious. Our culture can’t even seem to define marriage! Much less agree upon the dynamics of husband-wife marital roles and the discipline of children.

British Pastor Stuart Olyott, in summing up the flow of argument in Ephesians 4-6, says: “The apostle Paul has made it clear that Christians live differently from other people. When they are together, their behaviour contrasts sharply with the social behaviour of the unconverted (4:1-16). When they are surrounded by the men and women of the world in daily life, their conduct remains distinct (4:17-5:21). Paul is now going to tell us that they also live in a radically different way at home (5:22-6:9). It is fairly easy to live the Christian life at church. It is much more difficult to do so in the world. But the hardest place of all to live as a Christian is at home. This is why the apostle comes to this subject last of all.” ‘Spot on,’ as the Brits like to say.

Well, Ephesians 5:21 provides us with a framework for understanding this whole section, and so we camped on it Sunday morning. Remember how it goes? “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” There is no better index of a life under the influence of the Holy Spirit, being guided by the Holy Spirit, being filled up or matured by the Holy Spirit than what Paul calls “mutual subjection.”

One thing we tried to learn (I say “tried” because these things are more easily said than lived), is that “being subject to one another” or “subjecting yourselves” means our living out a self-denying, other-serving Gospel-enabled and motivated subjection to fellow Christians. That is, we are deliberate, self-conscious, joyful and willing in committing ourselves to the service of other Christians. Our lives are to be characterized by self-denying, mutual submission in the interests of mutual edification. This means we are (1) willing to be the least (Matt 18:1-4; 20:28); (2) willing to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17); (3) strive to prefer others ahead of ourselves (Romans 12:10); (4) aim to do nothing from selfish ambition but from humility (Phil 2:3).

We become a people not characterized by insisting on getting our own way, but rather we place ourselves at one another’s disposal, and live in such a way that our mutual service becomes a hallmark of our fellowship. There should be in us a willingness to serve any, to learn from any, to be corrected by any. “How may I serve you?” becomes our motto. This sets the stage for everything that follows in Ephesians 5:22-6:9.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

editorial note: Dr. Duncan's sermons on Ephesians may be found here

No comments: