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August 26, 2018 The Church~We’re in This Together   “Relationships Under Christ’s Influence”

Ephesians 5:21~6:10

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ;

*What did Paul need to convey to the newly planted New Testament Church in Ephesus? Well, a lot of things; but for our purposes, {on the past 6 Sunday mornings}, we’ve seen a broad outline of this Epistle, and touched on some of the main ideas, as you can see from the series outline on the bulletin insert.   For chpts 1~3, it was very important back then that the Jews in Ephesus understand that the Old Covenant days were finished in Christ Jesus.

Not only did Jesus come as the Messiah of the Jews, but he ushered in a NEW Covenant; and this New Testament Church was going to look different & operate differently than the Old.   Jesus was the promised Savior for the whole world ~ Jews and gentiles alike.   The church is one people under one father, /one savior, /one spirit, /one plan of salvation for any & for all humans. Now there was no distinction between Jew & Gentile; we are one church in Christ together.   Back then, for them, that was a new way of thinking.

For chpts 4~6 it was also important for Paul to emphasize that this new church body was still a very particular group of humans in the world. This church would continue to maintain very special holiness /in their living, /in moral behaviors, /in kind & clean talk, /in humble repentance, /in willing forgiveness, /in sexual morality & modesty, /in confident & committed marriages, /in godly households, /in charity & honest business practice; and also in principled & open opposition to immorality, greed, false gods, and sinful behaviors of all kinds.

This church would proclaim the one gospel of forgiveness in Christ, and show itself as the trusting & holy children of God to a world that is running out of time to know who God is, & to know the Savior He sent. This true God would draw others to himself by having such faithful & righteous people as his witnesses.

Sooo, that’s where we are as we near the end of Paul’s letter and part #7 in our series. Whatever the HSp had Paul write to the believers in Ephesus around 60AD, it ALL applies to you & me in 2018AD as God’s one, holy, Christian & apostolic church.

And whatever’s written here will continue to define the faithful Church of Christ in the future, until Jesus returns in glory.   Paul began chapt.5 by defining what it means for us to be ‘children of light’, with right & holy words & behaviors. Now he ends chpt.5 by speaking about holy relationships, starting with the unchanging blessing of holy marriage.

Sadly, it must be made clear in our day that the blessing of marriage does not include any ‘new fangled’ ideas & redefinition of marriage; you can’t have God’s blessing unless you do it His way.   As people of God’s Word, do not let yourself be deceived by fancy talk about changing or expanding marriage to include any arrangements of people other than: one man & one woman, who make a solemn vow before God of faithfulness to one another.

The devil has had his way in deceiving Christians into tolerating & accepting new things about marriage; but that’s wrong, & will not be so among us. God’s truth of marriage is not hard to know; but in a perverted world, it can be a real challenge to uphold = esp. when we have to oppose our children or grandchildren, who may be deceived by the world.

Years ago, at a reception after a wedding I did, where this passage from Eph.5 was read, one of the women across the table from me commented == something like: oh, you still use that old word ‘submit’.   My reply was: Yep, it’s still in the Bible.

The Apostle Paul has not been popular with those who lean toward the feminist ideology, and who don’t want to accept the Creator’s viewpoint & purpose when the HSp teaches here

{in vs 22-23} that wives are to submit to their husbands because ‘the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.’  They say that Paul was just ignorant, not enlightened like we are; and was writing to a male-dominated society, where women & children were considered to be ‘possessions.’   Of course, oppression of women, children, & slaves existed; but that wasn’t God’s fault, and it’s not what the word ‘submit’ means here.

The truth is, to the OT Israelites, {and to Jesus & the Apostles}, women were honored, protected, & privileged, like in no other culture, because of their highest calling & design to bear & sustain the human race. These two separate roles of men & women are still perfectly designed & blessed by our Holy Creator = & that truth will never change.

And as for all of God’s truths, it takes faith to accept them. The question in our day might be: *why would women settle for something less than what God designed for them?

Once again, it is Satan who doubts, twists, & denies God’s truths, and deceives people.

The unchanging Gospel of this faith in Christ is a life-changing Gospel. It changes people in whatever situation they are living. History has proven many times that once the seed of the Gospel is sown in a place, the mistreatment of people begins to end, and good & holy relationships under God’s good order takes over.   It often takes a while to flourish, but the Word of our Creator is always best for individuals, and for a culture & nation.

This changing of individuals & society certainly was part of the motivation of all the Apostles as they proclaimed the Gospel. Christ alone brings to the world the power to save the inner soul AND to change the outer life of that person back into the holy image of our Creator.

Beginning in baptismal-grace, men, women, & children all receive that godly sense of self-worth in Christ; so much so, that they can now “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” v 21. This mutual submission is how everything here begins; it doesn’t means ‘blind obedience’ or ‘forced compliance’.   Out of reverence for Christ, the response to His willing love is a life willing to serve according to who He made us, and putting the care of others first.

For men ~this faith-life looks like a ‘giving love’, for women ~this faith-life looks like a ‘respect’, and for children ~this faith-life looks like ‘obedience’.   Only those with faith in Christ Jesus are able to trust Him, and believe that following His way will result in His great blessing. So, this word ‘submit’ applies to ALL Christian disciples.

This mutual submission to one another ‘out of reverence for Christ’ was applied by Paul to ALL human relationships, and he began with that basic & irreplaceable unit of human society: a man and a woman as husband and wife.    In talking to wives, Paul reused the word submit: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife”

We know that Paul was not teaching here of some male-superiority or forced male-dominance because that’s not how Christ treats His Church. *What kind of headship does this call for? This kind: “Husbands, LOVE your wives, AS Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” v25.    This headship is the love of serving.

The husband has the responsibility before God for his wife’s true welfare just as Christ is the Servant-Head of the Church, and responsible for our welfare. As Christ gave Himself up fully, even into suffering & death for the Church,  so the Christian husband is to give himself up for his wife, making her health, welfare,& happiness priority his priority. Being ‘head’ is about responsibility, not lordship. When God looks to see how things are in our homes & families, He looks first at the husband & father to ask, ‘How are you taking care of things for Me?’

Any man who is giving of himself up for the physical, emotional, & spiritual health of his wife & children will have the full support of his wife. She will not feel the need to ‘fight him’ for headship, but will encourage & respect his God-appointed role. He can be the ‘head’, and she will be the ‘heart’ of the home. In this way, they will “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The HSp. did not forget about children in a blessed family life; and the truth here is very simple: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” v6:1    So, you, boys & girls here this morning, the Bible is talking to you. The word ‘parent’ here can mean both your actual parents or ‘those in the place of parents’ =other adults= by which Jesus is caring for you. Either way, God wants you to obey your parents.   Teenagers {& young adults} should note that the Spirit did not add an ‘end date’.   Even as you grow up into some independence & personal responsibility, the command is still there = don’t break it; or else you will certainly reduce the promise of blessing that it would ‘go well for you.’   Disobey, and you’ll cause yourself trouble; obey and it will go well. That is the way of your Lord.

Fathers, do not anger {provoke, or exasperate} your children,” v 4.   Here, the HSp identifies a common, human problem. Fathers may have expectations that are beyond their children’s ability at their age level, & be impatient. Fathers, pay attention to how your headship is being felt as they go thru the stages as infants, /toddlers, /children, /teens, /& young adults. Pay attention & adjust.

“Fathers, no not anger your children, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”   This too is a father’s responsibility, by God’s design.

Too many fathers think they have enough to do in ‘providing’, and they’re not there for the care & training of their children; this is not right. Recent studies bear-out the blessing of God’s way; that the father’s example in both the home and in the church is a large factor in the future faithful involvement of children in both the home and in the church.

Our changed relationships under Christ’s influence also affects our ‘working’ relationships outside the home. Here, Paul is not ‘endorsing’ slavery, as many critics of the Bible claim. But here he had to say something to those early Christians who were poor or were slaves who had heard the Gospel of Christ, and needed instruction for their hard life. Whether a poor worker or slave, they were seen as ‘nobodies’ in the Roman world. So they could be mistreated, oppressed, bought & sold, or even executed by their ‘owners.’

But the poor & humble servanthood of Jesus meant a great deal to them. Slaves were not nobodies; they were precious in God’s eyes, even worth the holy blood of Christ on the cross of their salvation. And because forgiveness & heaven was theirs, this earthly life now was not ‘everything’.   Their new Christian faith may not have changed their difficult life, but they themselves were now changed on the inside = and nothing in all creation could take that away.

It didn’t matter if they were a slave; they were a child of God. Their masters might be harsh & cruel, but a slave could still offer their work with respect & sincerity, because they were not just serving men, but their life served the Lord.

You & I are not slaves, but your faith is to affect whatever your job is, so that you obey your master or employer “As you would Christ.” You can rise above your circumstances.   The Spirit says that you are serving Christ as you respect and work with those who are over you; as you are friendly & helpful to co-workers, as you do the very best you can. You are assured here that “knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.” v 8    Your real employer is the Lord Jesus.

On the flip-side, masters or employers need to remember that they =and those who work for them= have the same Master in heaven.  What a culture shock it must have been at the church in Ephesus to have some slave-owners who became Christians sitting together with their Christian slaves, worshiping, singing & praying together as brothers & sisters in Christ.

Just because our Society has changed considerably since this Epistle was written in 60AD doesn’t mean that these words no longer apply to us, as some critics of Paul would argue.   Here the HSp teaches us about human relationships under the blessing of God. 2,000 years after Ephesus, WE still have the same temptations & sins in our relationships of /men & women, /husbands & wives, /parents & children, /employers & employees. The One who created us knows our weakness, and knows what is best, and how to live. And it is by the same NT faith in Christ Jesus that our godly relationships will make our lives blessed.

2,000 years later, it is still the unchanging gospel of Christ that changes our lives.

The solution to our troubles is still the same; to hear, learn, and follow the Word of the Lord   in our lives, both our private life and our public life, / in our personal thinking and in our household arrangements. Our Creator has set up His creation to function best =in both families & nations= when we know Him, and trust & obey His Word of life.

Let’s not be talked out of knowing & following the teachings of Paul in this Epistle.

You & I believe that these are not just Paul’s words to a people of long ago and an outdated culture.   The HSp is still speaking to our world, and to you & me.

Just as we believe that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto our salvation, we also believe that our faith in Christ & in all His teachings will daily renew /our life, /our church, /our home, /our workplace, /our neighborhood, /our city, state, & nation.   The promise of God is that ALL our relationships will be blessed under Christ’s influence.

Amen