Now this morning, the bit that I’m reading is in Ephesians, chapter six, verses one through nine comes in a section of the letter that David mentioned last week is called the household codes. These codes, these household codes are simply codes of faithful conduct, for those living in a typical Roman household in an ancient Roman household, and, and what you’d
typically find in just about every Roman household, ancient household were three pairs of relationships. First,
you find the husband and the wife relationship. Second, you’d find the parent and the child relationship. And thirdly, and finally, you’d find, really the slave and the master relationship. Now, now, Paul, and the Bible
expects that faith faith in Christ Jesus is going to impact the relationships that you’d find in any household, no matter which century you live in. And no matter no matter how unjust or just the social structures, maybe. Now, last week, if you remember, Dave looked at the first of these three relationships is the relationship between the wife and the husband, and this week, we’ll look at the second and the third. Now, each of these relationships also could easily take the whole
time, I mean, you could dedicate a sermon for each one of these relationships, we’re going to work through these two, and I’m going to try and work out quickly in the in the interest of time here. Now, here’s what Paul has to say, first two children. This is the word of God.
Paul writes, obey your parents in the Lord. For this is right.
Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Now, this is what Paul says to children no matter what age, whether we call them minors, or whether we call them adults. And his instruction to them is obey, obey, your parents follow their commands do what they ask you to do. And now parents are all looking at their children had a small boy at this moment, but I guess it’s a little bit more complicated than just a simple obedience, because Paul says, obey your parents in the Lord.
Now, this, in some ways, changes things. And there may be occasions where your parents ask you to do a child to do something in legitimate or maybe even only illegal, or immoral. Are you still supposed to obey your parents at that point, and impose on sin? The Bible’s answer is, is No. Because that instruction is not in the Lord. It’s not in line with the nature. It’s not in line with the character of the Lord. And I think this is part of the reason that that Paul says obey. And then he quotes one of the 10 commandments, that says, Honor your father and mother.
You see, it seems to me that it’s possible to honor and and respect your parent, even when you feel that you aren’t always able to obey them in the Lord.
Many might say, I suppose this morning and in this room and those watching at home might say, Well, you know, I feel thankful for my parents, I’m grateful. It’s not a difficult thing to honor my parents, but but I suppose there will be many who, perhaps in this room, and those watching might say, well, actually it is difficult to honor parents somehow feel rejected by their parents or felt abandoned by parents who have left them to pursue some
their own personal interest, and some even speak of of profound abuse. And the question is, is still possible to honor parents in such cases?
Now this is what I believe Paul is getting at. And this is what I believe the Bible is getting at, is calling believers to honor the Office of the parent.
When you learn to honor the Office of the parent, you start treating them with respect.
Even when sometimes we feel it’s difficult to do so even though sometimes we find it that we might have good reason not to respect them. Now, what do I mean by honoring the the the Office of the parent,
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a courtroom.
Or perhaps you watched a court seen on television, and you’ll notice that the the court insists that the judge be called, Your Honor, or, or or sir, or something like that. Now, this isn’t just snobbery,
the language that we use in the court forms in us, it can respect for the law. It teaches us how to view the authority of the court, you see there’s something bigger, much bigger going on in the courtroom than then the personalities and the characters that we meet in the court.
Now, you may know the judge off the court, you may know him at, say the golf course. And you may know that he behaves terribly when he’s drunk. You may know that he’s an arrogant man, you may know that he’s not a very nice man. But in the court,
because he holds the Office of the judge. He gets the respect. And he gets to be called, Your Honor.
That’s what God wants of us, children, big or small. He wants us to honor our father and mother. Because actually, there’s something much bigger going on in God’s world, then the characters, the personalities that we meet in God’s world. And Paul gives two reasons for obedience and respect for parents. And here’s the first.
By the way, let me just remind you, for those who have not seen that, feel free to type some questions. And I’m not going to be able to cover all the issues, and I suspect there’ll be lot of questions, because I want to get through a lot of ground this morning. So please feel free to put in your questions on that slide there. Now, here’s the first reason a poll gives for obedience and respect for parents and he says,
it’s right. It’s just the right thing to do.
Now, human intuition, tells us that obeying and honoring parents is the right thing to do in Romans, chapter one. Paul describes a society that is completely off kilter, and it’s marked by vices. That is sort of accepted as as normal, quote, unquote. These vices vices include murder, envy, pride, all sorts of sexual deviance and guess what else Paul throws into this list disobedience of parents.
Now, this principle is not a principle of honoring your parents or respecting in obeying your parents is not unique to Biblical cultures, you find it in just about every single culture on this planet divided in Chinese culture, Indian cultures, Asian cultures, you find an African, Native American cultures you find it just about every single society. Now, most cultures The point is this, of the world feel that this honoring parents is as obviously wrong as self evidently wrong. As say something like
torturing babies for fun, is obviously self evidently wrong. See, God has designed us in such a way
that we flourish as human beings. When we honor our parents, God has designed human societies in such a way that human communities flourish. When children in in those communities, honor their parents. So Paul say is just right.
Now, there’s another motivation Paul gives for honoring parents and it’s because when the commandments in the Old Testament comes with a promise of promises, so that it may go well
with you and that you may
Joy long life on the earth. Now the promise in the Old Testament is long life in the promised land. The point there in the Old Testament is that were individuals in in Israel treated their when they treated their parents with honor.
When they treated their parents with respect, they could enjoy that geographical piece of land, they would enjoy length of life in that piece of land. Now, what does all of that mean for believers today?
they ultimately, let me tell you a long life. And a bit of property is too small thing for those who have their eyes set on eternity. And the promise to believers is something far greater. It is a permanent place in God’s eternal, new creation, when when Christ Jesus establishes his New Heaven, when he establishes his new Earth,
we will prosper with him
How’s that for a long life?
Paul has words for those in positions of authority in this parent child relationship as well. He speaks now to parents
verse for fathers, Paul writes, do not exasperate your children.
Instead, bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord.
Now, fathers are specifically mentioned, because they would have had unique authority in the in the Roman household in a typical Roman household. But if you think about it, the instructions to fathers can’t be two fathers alone. It must include mothers too, I mean, that Paul wouldn’t be saying fathers, make sure you don’t exasperate your children but mums, you’re okay. The loser obviously wouldn’t be meaning that he’s not saying fathers only you’ve got the job of raising a child and favored mums. Lucky for you, you’re off the hook on this one. See, the instruction is to mums and dads and I would add the instruction is to anyone who is in position of parental authority, including step parents, including grandparents, guardians, including, and I would add the church, the people of God, who are in position of influencing children. And what’s the instruction that Paul gives, he says to them,
your children. Don’t provoke them to anger, don’t frustrate them, you parents have authority over them. don’t discourage your children. Don’t be a loose cannon.
Don’t be unpredictable with your children. So your children are hardwired to to depend upon you. They came into this world, not by their choice.
The one abused the obedience and the order and the owner that they gave you. So what does that look like in practice?
means do away with those verbal put downs. Put away the insults, that often accompany a command or a direction put away favoritism
put away hypocrisy can tell you these are the sorts of things that make a child resent parental authority parents, you have the privilege, you have the privilege to mold your children for good.
What is that good, that Paul speaks about? He says instead, bring them up
in the training, bring them up in the instruction of the Lord. See, the Bible is saying
that it’s possible to raise a child in faith without crushing their souls, it’s possible to impart the truth of Christ Jesus without damaging their little spirits.
Now, you may know the name, Ben Carson.
Carson was appointed to a prominent place in in the Trump administration, the previous American president, and he was a highly where Ben Carson was a highly respected pediatric neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in the US. He was also a best selling author long before he took on political office. Ben Carson
and his brother
were raised by a single mother. Her name was Sonia and Sonia struggled with depression all her life. She’d been cruelly betrayed by her husband, who had another wife had another family. Sonia Carson worked as a domestic servant. She wasn’t able to read, she wasn’t able to write. But she loved Jesus. And she remained active in her church until her death. Just a few years ago now, Sonia, Sonia Carson never gave up the hope, overall, raising godly men. She gave her sons what she had, she gave them her time, she gave them her fairness. And she sometimes gave them a firm hand. I’m not I know, I’m not supposed to say that these days, but that’s what she did.
And she taught them. Sonia Carson taught her children to be accountable. She taught them hard work. And listeners, most importantly, she taught taught her boys to love Jesus, and to love the people of God. Now, a few years ago, this is before Sonia Carson died. After Ben Carson’s great success and achievement. Someone asked Ben Carson.
So yeah, you’ve been married?
You have your own family?
Why does your mother still live with you?
Now, I don’t know if this was a sincere question or cynical. But listen to what Carson said. He said,
You don’t understand.
If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t be living here. She earned the home I’m living in, not me.
See, that’s the circle of true, nurturing, parental authority.
parents of children are gratefully honored by children who have learned integrity by children who’ve learned the fear of the Lord, from their parents. And let’s move on.
To the final This is the final relational pair that you’d find in a typical Roman household. And this is the relationship between slaves and the master. Verse five,
obey your earthly masters with respect and fear. And with sincerity, of heart, just as you would obey Christ, obey them not only to win their favor when their eyes on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God, from your heart.
Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know, that the Lord will reward you each one of for whatever good they do, whether they are slave, or free.
Now, let me lay out the context of ancient Roman slavery in the ancient world. Suppose it’s difficult to read this passage without thinking about the transatlantic slave trade. That continued for around 400 years. And it’s thought that some something like 10 to 12 million Africans were transported and sold as slaves mostly into the European colonies in the Americas. And and it’s especially difficult to to read this passage, given the fact that Christian slave owners justified slavery based on this pathogen. And so I need to say something about how Roman slavery was, it was different. And it might be similar, in some ways, with with the slavery that we’re familiar with. roughly a third of those living in the Roman Empire were slaves.
And a person could find themselves a slave, for for various reason. And one thing to note, really important thing to note, is that you weren’t a slave in the Roman Empire because you belonged to a certain race. quite different from how we know the transatlantic slavery. slaves, most commonly in the ancient Roman world tended to be prisoners of war.
The truth is, warfare was a universal reality. In the ancient world, if he didn’t
to battle as a society or nation, for some reason, it was virtually impossible to survive. If you were lucky enough to to win the battle, well, then you still had another problem what what do you do with those enemies soldiers that didn’t die on the battlefield? Me You could release them. And then they will be back next year and to Harris you and, and this time perhaps even destroy you. Of course, there’s another option you could kill all of these prisoners of war or you could make them labor for you as slaves. That was one of the most common reasons for slavery in the ancient world. The other big reason for for the institution of slavery was really economic.
And none of this makes it okay By the way, the people often sold themselves or or their loved ones into slavery, to avoid poverty, to pay off debts. Now remember, poverty in the ancient world is not surviving on door. Poverty in the ancient world is not surviving on school lunches put it this way, whenever we might think of slavery, it was still considered the best option, a better option than some of the other options that were available to the poor. And then finally, people were slaves as victims of kidnapping. Now, here’s something really interesting about ancient slavery. In slaves in in ancient Rome, tended to occupy all sorts of roles in society. Some slaves were highly educated, in fact, in fact, some slaves were even more educated than their own masters.
The great stoic philosopher Epictetus was a slave. You know the name Aesop from Aesop’s Fables. You’ve heard the story of the tortoise and the hare or, or the fox on the sour grapes. Aesop was a slave, you’d find slaves, running businesses, you’d find slaves running homes, you find them as teachers, as generals, of armies, and political advisors.
Of course, you’d also find slaves, providing all the menial and manual hard labor to
Roman slaves could buy their own freedom
by different than modern slavery, and some did. But once again, most of them opted to remain in slavery because believe it or not, many felt that slavery was better than to earn your own wage in the ancient Roman world. Now, I don’t want to make it all seem like it was all charmed and rosy slavery in ancient Rome. And in fact, slavery in the Bible was probably a lot more humane than the kind of slavery we’re familiar with. In the New World. But but but there is a real, real dark side to ancient slavery, slaves were ultimately property.
They were property of their masters, as long as they remained slaves, they will often physically tortured. They’re often sexually abused by their masters and masters would threaten them with violence, to control them, to to manage them. And the slave who ran away from their master
could be legally executed.
So what does Paul have to say the slaves?
your earthly masters, this serve them wholeheartedly. So when you do a dude with respect, and when you do it, do it with integrity. Don’t do it because you’re trying to win your masters favor, but do it because you’re trying to please the Lord.
That may seem a little surprising,
maybe even cruel, to our years that Paul would say that to a slave after the description of slavery, particularly laterally that I gave you. Now, it’s important to say a few things. Paul is not endorsing the institution of slavery.
He thinks there is no difference but as far as Gods concerned between the slave and the free, he says that in Galatians, he says, for example, that slave traders are no different to murderers. He says that in First Timothy, chapter one, he encourages slaves to to gain their freedom if they can. And first Corinthians chapter seven in the Bible
Fact a personal letter that we have a poll sends to his friend, Philemon, he is a Christian slave owner.
And there’s only one point it’s a very short letter. And if you get a chance to read it, it’s in the Bible. And Paul makes just one point in this lecture, he pleads with his friend fi leemon, to receive his runaway slave, as slaves name his uneasiness. He says to find him a little receive him, not as a law breaker,
as someone who could then be executed for running away, don’t receive him as a law breaker but as a brother,
in Christ Jesus.
And yet, here in Ephesians, he selling
slaves to obey and serve their masters. We’ll come back to that. And if I don’t answer some of your questions, make sure you type them
on that link. Now he gives slaves, the motivation.
And the motivation he says this, you know,
that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do,
whether they are slave,
or free. And this is what Paul’s saying
is when you serve your master,
think of it as your commitment to doing good.
Your master may be cruel, your monster may be unjust. But remember, our Lord said, bless those who persecute you. Remember, our Master said, our heavenly, our great master said.
your enemies. See, there’s only one truly one motivation, that’s powerful enough to enable us to endure for servitude, or any other cruelty. The Lord, watch us. And he will reward you when you see him when we see him face to face. And let’s move on to the instruction to masters verse nine.
And masters, verse nine,
in the same way,
do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their master, and yours is in heaven. And there’s no favoritism with him. Now, what does Paul ask Christians in positions of authority or positions of authority over slaves? He tells them to treat the slaves
in the same way.
Now, if you think that’s an odd way of saying things, saying things
chances are you’re thinking on the right track. Think Oh, Paul is asking slaves. What he’s asked slaves to do. He’s, he’s telling them to obey, to serve their masters with respect with integrity is telling them to serve them like they’re serving Christ. So what does he mean? When he says the Masters
do the same?
Now, some commentators of the Bible says, well, it just means
Paul stone, the Masters to treat slaves kindly, and perhaps some of your translations may say that, but think about it.
If I ask john, whoever john is to throw a ball to jack, whoever jack is, and then I say to jack do the same to john, whatever I asked him to do. I’ve asked him to throw the ball to john.
If I ask john, the same john here to serve jack and then I say to jack do the same. For john.
I’ve asked him
to serve john. See that’s what it means to do the same.
But what’s the master doing? When he does the same for the slave?
Let’s go back to something that Dave read for us last week before he read the bit that he was looking at. It’s a statement that really begins the household chords and Ephesians chapter five, verse 21, and reads this
to one another, out of reverence for Christ.
So what does submit to one another look like in a husband wife relationship, it means that the wife
submit to the husband and the husband, submit to the wife, by loving heart. What does submit to one another look like in a parent child relationship, it means that the child submit to the parent, the father of the mother, by obeying by honoring the parent and the parent, submit to the child
by nurturing them in the faith.
Now, what does it look like here in the in the master and the slave relationship? What it means is that the slave submits to the master by
obeying and serving the master. But it also means that the master submits
to the slave
by serving the slave.
See, part of the reason why that doesn’t completely make sense to us,
is because we rarely see that around us.
Anyone in power, we see them hanging on to that power, we look around and see that’s the logic that’s being played out.
Those who have the power only want to increase it, they just want more of it. Those who have authority, want to highlight themselves want to display their own authority, and lord it over others. In fact, you’ll probably see that same kind of tussle for power in your own homes, in our own schools and our families in our offices.
But Paul’s logic
doesn’t come from what we see in the world. Paul’s logic doesn’t come from what he sees. In the Roman Empire, his understanding for what you do with power, when you happen to have it
is modeled by Christ Jesus, God in flesh. And what does Paul see the master do Jesus to he sees Jesus who who possesses the authority of God Philippians chapter
verses nine through 11. He says, I was gonna say, three, he sees Jesus with the authority and what does he do with that authority, all that power, he doesn’t hold on to it. He doesn’t cling to it.
He sees Jesus become and this is Philippians word obedient.
Where did you hear that word. That’s what slaves are doing to monsters. That’s where what children are doing to parents, he sees this Jesus obedient
on a cruel cross.
to this Jesus speak, and he refers to himself, as a son of man, Mark, chapter 10, verse 45,
for even the Son of Man
did not come, to be served,
but to serve,
and give his life as a ransom for many.
So this is what Paul is saying to masters. This is one thing, he says, you may happen to be born into power as a master, you may happen to be born into the society that gives you privilege. And perhaps that can be helped.
And don’t use that power to exploit. Don’t use that power to mistreat those who are dependent on you don’t threaten,
use that power to serve the powerless. And those who are powerless for reasons that we’re outside their control, says Do the same
for the slaves masters as they do for you, under the social conditions that they’re putting, see, that’s what submitting to one another means. For a master it means to serve, to serve the slave and let me close just with a few reflections. And please be asked more questions that a lot of stuff that I could have spoken about, I can’t we may look at Paul, right from our 21st century perspective and draw the unfair conclusion that maybe Paul didn’t say enough, or he didn’t say what we politically correct. Brits are supposed to say. You got to remember that he is writing
in a society where there are many evil many unjust structures and and he’s not in a position to overturn them at that point. The most of the biblical writers weren’t in a position to overturn that and if he were to do
Anything radical, it would actually endanger the lives of the slaves. You see the question for believers living in the first century? Was this?
How do I live in an unjust situation? question was how do I live in a society where somehow the power and others don’t?
How do I live when I am that powerless one?
He says, How do I live? When I’m the one who has that power?
The Bible’s answer is always this. So there’s a way of keeping your integrity. Even if you have power, even if you have no power, there’s a way of doing good
as a way of remaining faithful, there’s a way to submit to one another out of reverence, whatever the circumstance, we may be outside our control,
is a way of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ and and if for some reason,
you feel that you missed out on life, because you did the right thing by the Lord.
Paul says, there is an eternity, where there’s an eternal muster.
He is the righteous judge,
and he will reward you.
So we pray.
Gary, you can come on up.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word. And we thank You, Father, that you speak to us to submit to one another out of reverence for each other. And Father, so often we seek to find our own advantage in the the unfair situation, how do I jostle for power in my situation? Lord, you teach us to take what we have and serve each other because we do it out of reverence for Jesus.
Teach us what that looks like in our situations for we asked us in Jesus name, amen.