With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. — Ephesians 6:7
A few months ago, my husband and I visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory, at the Oregon Coast, and found it fascinating to watch the cheese-making process. A specific procedure was accomplished at each station along the way. When the cheese was cut into blocks, a conveyor belt carried it through the final steps. However, we saw that one machine was not working properly. Wrappers scattered on the floor, and blocks of cheese backed up on the conveyor belt. Employees at various stations had to stop their tasks and wait for the machine to be fixed. As we watched, workers adjusted and repaired the equipment. When it started working again, everyone was able to go back to doing their regular jobs. Then the same machine jammed yet again, the cheese blocks backed up, and the whole repair process began once more. The system was suffering because one part was not working properly.
Relationships can be quite a bit like a factory conveyor system. A marriage runs smoothly if the wife fulfills God’s directions and is subject to her husband, and if the husband loves his wife as himself. A family runs smoothly if the children honor and obey, and the parents do not provoke the children to wrath but teach them about God. The workplace runs smoothly if the employees do good work and follow instructions, and the employers treat the employees well. However, if someone does not follow the Biblical instructions, the whole “machine” is impeded or stopped.
The key is in realizing that we need to fulfill our places in life, whatever those places may be, “as to the Lord.” This means we need to act as if we were in that relationship directly with God. You probably don’t look at your boss and think of him as God; nor do you regard your spouse or children or parents in that way. Yet if we would look at them as to the Lord, no doubt we would find it easier to behave in a godly manner.
Let’s be sure that we are not jamming up the conveyors of our lives!
The Ephesians were familiar with the Roman social order of their day, in which the husband had full authority over the wife and the children, and owned the slaves. Slaves were ruled until they were freed (if that ever happened). Male children were under their father’s authority until they became adults. Women and female children were under the men’s authority all their lives. Paul did not try to change this social order, but he addressed the proper attitudes for living within it. While the social order today may be structured differently, the principles still apply.
Paul gave two reasons for wives to submit to their husbands: Jesus is the Head of the Church, and the husband, as the head of the home, is the head of the wife. The Apostle’s instructions to the husbands were twice as long as those to the wives, and the central theme was love. This perspective presented a sharp contrast to Roman society where a wife was considered the husband’s property! A husband was directed to demonstrate his love for his wife by loving her sacrificially “as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Jesus gave His all. The well-being of the wife was to be of primary importance, just as Jesus suffered to provide the needs of the church. The man was to care for his wife as he did his own body, “even as the Lord the church.”
What an elevated view of marriage Paul presented! And he went on to state that this relationship is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. What a responsibility that places on a Christian couple!
Some seem to assume that these Biblical instructions to husbands and wives entitle the man to be domineering and require the woman to be subservient. Such assumptions could hardly be further from God’s intent, for He values each soul equally. Submission is a choice — the decision to yield one’s will to another.
If a husband and wife will both submit to Christ, study the Bible each day, and seek to follow God’s instructions and do His will, their marriage is sure to succeed. Obviously, if one partner is not a Christian, this unity of purpose is not possible. Thus, a Christian should marry a Christian. However, if one of the two is not a Christian and the saved companion purposes to follow God’s instructions, the marriage can only be improved. “Obedience to God always brings blessing” are familiar words from some marriage ceremonies. A failed marriage is an indication that someone is out of God’s will.
Next, Paul moved on to instructions for parents and children. Children were told to obey because that was God’s command. They were also directed to honor their parents. Honor goes beyond obedience because it shows love and respect.
Parents were told not to exasperate their children, but to teach them how to love and serve God. This included teaching by example. Other ways of encouraging children include praise for proper actions and attitudes, fair and consistent discipline, keeping promises, not showing favoritism among siblings, and careful attention to children’s problems and concerns — even though they seem unimportant on an adult level.
Paul addressed slaves and masters. The principles outlined here can be applied to employees and employers today. Servants (employees) were to labor as if they were serving Christ himself because that was (and is) God’s will. God himself would give the reward for such service. Masters (employers) were challenged to remember Christian principles and treat their servants with the proper attitudes and concern for their welfare, and to avoid threats. Again the thought of submission was rehearsed.
The Apostle clearly illustrated that Christianity brings unity and blessing in relationships by a change of heart resulting in godly attitudes, not by a change of social structure. His desire was that the Ephesians would fulfill their roles as God had appointed them, and the results would benefit them and the Gospel. None of God’s instructions were meant to be degrading. Rather, they were, and are, a guide to living a blessed and godly life.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The conduct of the church
E. Conduct in the home (5:22 — 6:9)
1. Wives (5:22-24)
2. Husbands (5:25-33)
3. Children (6:1-3)
4. Parents (6:4)
5. Slaves (6:5-8)
6. Masters (6:9)
God’s directions for His followers’ attitudes are direct opposites of natural human inclinations. A change of heart is essential to truly follow His commands, and then His power and grace are necessary to apply His instructions to daily living.