Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – Upside Down Authority Turned Right Side Up
April 26, 2015
Ephesians 6:1-9 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
As we look at this passage, we see that Paul echoes several truths. First, children are to obey and honor their parents. This is a direct reference to the fifth commandment in the Old Testament. In this command God instructed children to honor their parents. It is also noteworthy that obedience to this command brings with it a blessing. The reward of obedience is that it will go well with them and they will live long in the land. In other words, they will have a good life. Paul on the other hand commands fathers not to exasperate their children but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. In other words, parents are to disciple their children and not just punish them.
Paul also refers to the slave and master relationship. In our modern culture, this can easily be used of the employee and employer relationship. Paul begins this portion of scripture with a challenge that employees are to obey those over them with reverence for their position and with a sincere heart. These actions were to be carried out as if they were serving Christ directly and was motivated by the desire to please Christ. Just as the command for children to obey their parents came with a reward, so does serving those over you willfully and sincerely. What is the reward? They were to receive back from the Lord what they had given to others. In essence, they were to reap what they had sown. Paul then commands the masters, or in our case employers, to do the same to their employees. They were to stop using threats as a means to motivate those working for them because the reality is that they serve and must answer to the same God.
We see Paul’s heart here, but as we look over the landscape of our current culture, we find that the concept of respect and submission to authority has deteriorated, drastically. This is in part because we are living in an independent, self-focused society where everyone believes they have a right to lead and govern themselves. The result of such a lifestyle is that submission has been exchanged for selfishness, false pride, and arrogance. Submission to authority has been exchanged for personal autonomy which leads a person to believe they are morally independent and self-directing. The work ethic of our forefathers has been traded for entitlements and give always. The result is that people now feel they can do anything they want to, they do not have to answer to anyone including God, and they are entitled to what others have without working for it in the same way.
This is not a new issue as we find that the nation of Israel had also rejected the idea of respecting the authority that had been placed over them. In this case, it was God Himself. On two occasions we find the saddest of all commentaries in the Old Testament. Listen to these words. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes, (Judges 17:6). This phrase is repeated at the end of the book as well. (Judges 21:25). Rather than submit to God, they chose to follow their own desires, plans, and opinions. Sadly, this same storyline could be written of this generation. Not only do we have a nation where disrespect and a rejection of authority is the norm, we have also rejected God.
To make matters worse, in the world of psychology, we have been taught that to discipline our children may result in wounding their fragile psyche and may do unrepairable damage to their little spirits. Dr. Spock who wrote the book “Common sense: Book of Baby and Child Care” changed the face of parenting forever. What he set in motion diminished the ability of modern parents to properly discipline their children. The following quote referenced Dr. Spock’s work. Parents began to feed self-indulgence instead of instilling self-control – homes were becoming child-centered. As parents elevated children’s “freedom of expression” and natural cravings, children became more outspoken, defiant and demanding of gratification. In fact, they came to view gratification as a right. Authority and respect in the home was diminished. For this reason, it is no longer culturally accepted to discipline or spank our children. How sad that is.
This environment of diminished respect and submission has been carried over into the workplace and for that matter into every part of life. Because self-gratification has become a right, those who have been brought up in this environment are now going to work and are struggling to hold down jobs because they have issues in taking orders and submitting to those leading them. Their feelings are hurt when they don’t get the promotion they want or they have to do things on the job they don’t like or enjoy. Their self-esteem is stunted when they are disciplined or required to work a certain number of days or keep certain hours in a day.
But God’s intent has been and still is vastly different from the world’s view on this matter. The passionate follower of Christ has been called to a higher walk. As I have noted before, I do not believe it is accidental that Paul began the discussion of submission in Ephesians 5:21 with the phrase that we should “submit to one another out of reverence to the Lord.” It is not a coincidence that Paul then moves to the husband and wife relationship which is followed by the relationship of children to parents and parents to children. And he closes with the idea of the employer/employee relationship. Though it is not expressly noted, the idea presented is that when parents are in right relationship to one another and to the Lord, they will more likely have children who are in right relationship with the parents and with God. A child who witnesses a stable environment of love, respect, and discipleship is more likely to be engaged on the job and will learn respect for those who they work for and work with. God’s ultimate desire is to see His followers respecting and honoring one another.
So what are the lessons we learn here? First, we learn that submission and giving honor is a choice. Paul says it is the right thing to do. In the story of Adam and Eve, we find they chose to reject the authority of God who created them. They chose instead to submit to the serpent’s authority which was based in false hope, lies, and a counterfeit vision of the future. Paul calls children to obey and to submit to their parents. Paul calls servants and employees to submit to their bosses. The fact is, we must choose to honor and to obey our parents. We must choose to submit to the leadership that is over us in Christ, because we are called to do so and there is a spiritual blessing and a reward in doing so.
As is the pattern of Paul, he gives us both sides of the equation so that a full understanding might come to the passionate follower of Christ. He addresses the antithesis or the flip side of the coin by noting that parents, namely the father, must not provoke their children to anger. Too often parents are more concerned about punishing the child rather than growing them in Christ. When the child is punished, too often it is because we are angry, perturbed, or our selfish expectations have not been met. Instead of correcting a problem, we are simply exasperating our children. We also exasperate our children by living a duplicitous life. As passionate followers of Christ, may we choose to submit and honor those with whom we are connected.
The second lesson is that as parents and leaders, we must understand that to get respect we must give respect and live in submission to others. In other words, we must model these principles. As moms and dads, do our children see us honoring our spouses? Do they see us honor our parents? Do we honor God in the way we live? Do we honor others or do we take them for granted. As employers, do we honor God with our business? Do we treat our employees with grace or are we demeaning and demanding on the job. As employees, do we take advantage of our bosses? Do we gossip behind their backs and belittle them? How we treat them is our choice. What we model though is what we will get in return.
The third lesson is that all of us submit to someone’s authority. Notice the words of Paul. The same God served by the employer is the same God who the employee serves. This brings me to the point that I made earlier. Too often, we want people to honor us and respect us when we ourselves are not respecting God’s word or submitting to God our Father. We want others to respect us and submit to our leadership but we ourselves are not willing to submit to others. We are all under someone’s authority whether we like it or not. The person you are called to submit to may be flawed but we are still called to submit and honor the position. The fact is, we are all flawed. We all make mistakes but that does not negate the call to respect and submit to those over us and to respect and honor those we work with. That is God’s calling to us.
As we close, is there an area of your life where you are struggling with submission and respect? Do you honor and submit to one another? Do you respect your spouse? What about your parents? What about your children? Do you respect your boss? Do you respect your employees? God’s will in all of this is that we would honor God by honoring others. So be it! To God be the glory!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom