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 http://www.bethelkingston.com 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’.
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