Saturday, August 25, 2012

Touching Base! Part 177

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 16
Behind Closed Doors – Ephesians 6:5-9
Guest Posting by Lew Worrad

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Some Biblical Texts seem irrelevant to particular cultures and particular societies. The text before us today is just such a text. After all, Canada is the home of the brave and the free. Slavery has never been anything but an ancillary concern for us. And we can take some moral solace from the fact that we were part of the North American solution to that problem. It would seem that texts on slavery have little to do with us.

And yet, there would be those who would argue that slavery is alive and well in Canada. Human trafficking is just one form of slavery and it is not very far from us today. And, the “occupy” movement might also have something to say about slavery. After all, in typical Marxist economics, when your labour is sold at a profit, that profit, what Marx called alienated labour, enslaves you. But, it is not our purpose to discuss Marxist economics.

It is often surprising to people that read the Bible that slavery is left somewhat unscathed. In all of the texts that deal with slavery, [Eph. 6, Col. 3, 1 Cor. 7, 1 Peter 2, Philemon] slavery is left intact. This does not mean that slavery was encouraged. The writers do not speak so much about the social system as they do about how an individual, caught in that system, could be Christ like.

Eph. 6:5-9 contains the third of three examples of what it means to submit. The over arching statement governing the section of wives, children, and slaves is: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) And, this text in itself is made possible by Eph. 5:18 “be filled with the Spirit.” Submission on the part of anyone is a struggle. For the Christian it becomes a possibility through the power of the Spirit and the desire to be like Christ. It might also be helpful, in the understanding of this text, to think not in terms of slaves and masters but of employers and employees where the master is the employer and the employee is the servant.

To the text:

1] The Perspective
In the text, Paul draws a comparison between two masters: the ‘earthly master’ [vs. 5] and the ‘heavenly master’ [vs. 9] Some point to the fact that the earthly master only has power over the flesh since in the Greek they are masters ‘according to the flesh’. Thus, in the spiritual realm they have no authority. Like Daniel, the slave has no responsibility to obey that which is contrary to the instruction of God. But more likely the text makes clear to the slave that in the overall scheme of things, slavery is but a temporal situation. In comparison with an eternity of freedom and fullness, this experience is but momentary. Serve the eternal master!

2] The Priority
Three times in the text the Apostle Paul repeats the same thing: “as you would obey Christ”. It is not an exact quote each time but the implication is the same. In reality, our primary responsibility is to be servants of Christ in every relationship, be it parental, marital or economic. If we are behaving in our earthly relationships as we would behave in our relationship with Christ, things would be good.

3] The Prescriptions
The question is, ‘how to be Christ honouring in these relationships’. Paul gives three instructions:
       A] serve your ‘master’ with honour and integrity. Vs. 5
       B] serve your ‘master’ with consistency. Vs. 6
       C] serve your ‘master’ willingly. Vs. 7
All of these things just as if you, as a believer, were serving Christ himself.
Such a thought might seem counterproductive or even preposterous. But, Paul now clarifies this whole matter.

4] The Promise
Service to Christ comes with its own rewards. And the reward of Christ comes without reference to social position. The Lord rewards goodness wherever he finds it. And, he never misses it. The reward may not come in this temporal realm, but then the Christian does not live for this temporal realm. If seeks with Christ: Kingdom First.

5] The Paradox
As in Paul’s other illustrations in this text, Eph. 5:22-6:9, the person to be submitted to has some heavy ethical responsibilities. In point of fact, ‘earthly masters’ are also ‘earthly servants’. They are servants of Christ. And as servants of Christ they fall under the same spiritual instruction as their ‘earthly servants’.

Lew Worrad
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Touching Base! Part 176

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 15
Children in the Lord – Ephesians 6:1-4
Guest Posting by Eric Prost

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Why is a single, childless, celibate Roman Jew teaching us about child-rearing this week?

The simple - and definitive - answer is that the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is the Word of God. But there is more.

In this week’s sermon, and in this accompanying Touching Base, we’ll first see why, 2000 years later, we should still listen to Paul. To do this, we’ll then need to see the 1st-century Roman context of this text, as well as its place in the letter to the Ephesians as a whole.

1. An Old Text
Forty years ago, the American psychologist B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) wrote his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity. At its beginning, before giving the details of his own theory, he explains why a new science of human behaviour is necessary. He writes that physics and biology have advanced immeasurably since antiquity, but that, regrettably, knowledge of human behaviour has changed little in the last 2500 years.

And yet we’re studying an ancient text this week. Quoting our text in its oldest English translation (with original spellings) will convey just how old it is:
“Chyldren obey youre fathers and mothers in the lorde: for so is it right. Honoure father and mother, that is the fyrst commaundement that hath eny promes, that thou mayst be in good estate, and live longe on the erthe. Fathers, move not youre chyldren to wrath: butt brynge them uppe with the norter and informacion off the lorde.”
--William Tyndale, 1526 (so go back another 1500 years to St. Paul).

Our text is almost 2000 years-old and surely concerns human behaviour: Child-rearing. It is millennia old, and yet is relevant. It is not a parenting manual, and yet is practical and quite specific.

2. The Roman Context
Historians’ views about the Roman family change based on evidence and opinion. However, it is always too easy to say that pagan Roman parents (and especially fathers) were all-powerful and cruel.

They were not Christians but, as humans, they (not surprisingly) showed the full range of emotions towards their children, including delight in toddlers: “[Little Fronto] shows some signs of his grandfather’s character as well: he is particularly greedy for grapes” (Fronto, Letters to his Friends, 1, 12, 2nd century AD).

It is true that fathers had the right of life and death over children, even if it wasn’t exercised; a father acknowledged that his new-born would live and be accepted by symbolically picking it up off the ground. Physical beatings were also common as the following quotation complaining about the teachers at a nearby school illustrates: “The cocks...have not yet broken the silence, and already your threatening grumbles and beatings thunder” (Martial, Epigrams 9, 68, 1st century AD).

And evidence does show that parental, and especially paternal, authority was paramount because children were viewed as merely partly rational - along with animals, barbarians, and slaves.

So in our text, Paul writes that children should obey their parents in the Lord, for this is right. Underscoring obedience to parents would not have been surprising to his audience. “For this is right” has the connotation that it is natural and understood. He then re-enforces his point with scripture, citing the Ten Commandments - “Honour your father and mother”.

But Paul addresses this command to the children themselves, these only “half-rational” beings of Roman society (just as he directly addresses slaves in the next passage, another group seen as but semi-rational). Children need to obey because they do not always know what is best and need to be instructed; children have responsibility though and are sentient beings with eternal worth and are treated with this dignity by Paul.

Then comes a command to the fathers, the powerful head of the household, that basic family and economic unit of Rome. “Do not exasperate your children” but “bring them up” or nourish them in “the Lord”. This is new, and not Roman commonsense, but a command nonetheless.

3. The Context in Ephesians
The first three chapters of Ephesians describe lofty truths from God’s point-of-view. It’s not the legal argument of the letter to the Romans about the human condition or the explanation of righteousness in Galatians. It’s about God’s reasons for things, purposes from above, from the “heavenly realms”.

Read this short letter again, looking for examples of this. Here are some: events unfolded “in accordance with his pleasure and will” and his (previously hidden) purposes. He has blessed us in the “heavenly” realms; the goal is “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together”; Christ is now seated in the “heavenly realms”; we, too, are seated in the “heavenly realms”; God’s plan was that the “wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”; even now we fight against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

The last three chapters of Ephesians explain how we must act since the first three chapters are true. As we examine chapters 4, 5, and 6, keep in mind the lofty heavenly purposes of God.

How does this help explain our text about child-rearing?

Amy Chua, in her controversial 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, describes how she pushed her daughters in every way to achieve high standards both at school and in other activities. She was often asked, “Who are you doing all this pushing for - your daughters...or yourself?” (p. 148).

Ephesian 6: 1-4 is about neither. It is not teaching parenting so that the parent’s self-esteem will be bolstered; it is not teaching parenting even for the benefit of the child. It is not instructing fathers how to raise children so that family honour will be preserved; and it is not describing child-rearing so that the kids will get into university.

It is describing child-rearing that is in alignment with God’s purposes from an eternity past to an eternity in the future - “not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:21). It is giving a few short but specific commands to children and their parents of what God wants because of how he is doing things and how he did them by sending Christ and how he planned on doing so since the creation of the world. The way to align with God’s great plans is to nourish children in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.

Let’s fall in step. It’s not always about us.

Eric Prost
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Classical quotations taken from Gardner and Wiedemann, The Roman Household: A Sourcebook (1991).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Touching Base! Part 175

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 14
Behind Closed Doors – Ephesians 5:22-32

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

"I once knew a man well who had a commanding public presence and exuded charm to all he met. What he said mattered. He had influence. He was always impeccably dressed and unfailingly courteous. But his secretary was frequently in tears as a result of his rudely imperious demands. Behind the scenes he was tyrannical and insensitive. His public image was flawless; his personal relationships were shabby.” (Peterson, Run With the Horses, p.157)

What disturbs me about the above story is that there are Christ followers who act as though it is completely okay to create this unhealthy dichotomy in the Christian life - a flawless public image that covers for a shabby private life. On Sunday, I talked about two sides of the door and how we have our public side and private side. The Big Idea on Sunday was that one of the most bona fide tests of being controlled by the Holy Spirit is in what happens in our lives behind closed doors. God wants to go deep! It is interesting in our text that after Paul talks about being filled with the Holy Spirit he touches down on three key relationships - marriage, family and boss/employee relations - that can often represent our lives behind closed doors.

Text: Ephesians 5:22-32 (For all those that want to object to the need for the wife to submit, just read the TB first. I think you may change your mind.)

Some might wonder how this Big Idea comes out of this text. However, think about the context. Gentile men who have come to Christ are now reading about how they are to treat their wives. Wives in that gentile culture were in many cases equivalent to slaves, mere possessions. What happened behind closed doors at home, to say the least, was not very Christ honoring. Paul comes along and shakes their world with his words. On Sunday I showed how, to Gentile men, these words would have cut deep into their private world of marriage and family. These words model how, when the Holy Spirit controls our lives (v.18), He wants to bring the light of God’s truth into all the places and spaces of our lives, regardless of what side of the door it may be on. Note how this happened in our text.

New Value (v.22-24)

Our fictitious gentile man Romulus would have had the understanding of the value of his wife challenged. Note two things:

First, Paul is assuming that women can be in relationship to Christ. The phrase, “as to the Lord” does not mean the husband is the Lord, but states that a wife’s relationship with her husband is very much a reflection of her relationship with Christ. Jesus stated this in Matthew 25:40. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers (note: generic, not just men) of mine, you did for me.” Paul is placing a value on women that surpasses that of Romulus’ culture by acknowledging that Christ has called women into relationship with Himself as well. They can be redeemed, loved, discipled and their horizontal relationships are to honour their vertical relationship with Christ.

Secondly, there is something else that catches Romulus’ attention. In that culture the superior person in a relationship was addressed when it came to ethical matters. Note what Paul is doing by first addressing the wife and clearly instructing her in the same way as he is the man. The woman has value, and equal standing.

Romulus may be able to impress people with his flawless public image but God’s Word wants to penetrate into his life behind closed doors.

For you, it may not be marriage but something else that you need to surrender that is behind the closed door. Is there a fight or a willingness to surrender?

New Paradigm (v.25)

Romulus’ paradigm for relating to his wife would have come from his culture and his own father. Guess what? God’s Word is going to change that! What is the example of what headship means in this text? If you said “death” then you win! This is NOT the paradigm Romulus has been looking to in order to understand how to relate to his wife. He is being challenged to break the generational sin of his family, to stand against the cultural chauvinism of his day, and to embrace the cross. Jesus is not just interested in Romulus having a flawless public image but a God-honoring personal life that unfolds behind closed doors. This will be a tough transformation for him to experience because of the cultural and family patterns that have been set.

What makes obeying Christ and surrendering control to the Holy Spirit difficult in your life?

If you’re thinking of your marriage, what paradigm has most impacted how you treat your spouse?

New Result (v.26-32)

Note that the comparison continues of a husband’s love for his wife which is similar to Christ’s love for the church. Now Paul elaborates a bit more on this analogy. Notice that just as Christ’s love for the church results in health and wholeness, so too should Romulus’ love for his wife result in health and wholeness. What is toughest is that Romulus is being challenged to have an out-of-body experience (v.28). He is to be tuned in to his wife’s needs and the result of his love for her is that she becomes a woman of God who is radiant, holy and blameless.

Know any women that are experiencing the opposite in a marriage? Romulus may realize he has some work to do. His wife may need to go from being the doormat to being the most treasured person in the entire house. He also may realize that in his marriage, he has always declared the wrong message: “I am the leader who rules with an iron fist!” This needs to change to “I am a servant who will die for my wife and put her interests ahead of my own.” Based on her need to submit and respect (v.22, 33) and his need to submit (v.21) and love (v.25-32) the only thing they should really argue about is who gets to out-serve who! I.e., “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3)

The biggest heresy in marriage is an alphabetical one - ”big I, little u.” Healthy relationships mean “little i, big U”.

Will Romulus allow the word of God to sink deeply into his soul, to go behind that closed door? Often the issues behind the closed doors are the most difficult to surrender and change. It might be your marriage or it might be how you handle your business. Whatever it is, it is something Christ wants to have control of.

One of the most bonafide tests of being controlled by the Holy Spirit is in what happens in our lives behind closed doors. Nothing is out of bounds for God to touch and transform in our lives. Just ask Romulus!

Some further questions to ponder.

How is God speaking to you regarding issues behind that closed door?

Are you wrestling or surrendering?

Are you guilty of a flawless public image but a shabby state of affairs behind the closed door?

When Paul says be filled/controlled by the Holy Spirit, are you including what is behind that door? That is where God wants to go and must go.

Are you living with this lie, “Keep Door Closed!”

What is the best way to help someone open a door?


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact