Ephesians – Submission

by Bret Collier

In order to have a healthy church, we are to submit to one another, Ephesians 5:21.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Last week we learned that in order to have a healthy marriage, wives are to submit to the husbands and the husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the church.

How does this apply to children, parents, employees and employers?

Submission is a military term indicating subordination to or ranking beneath another. It does not indicate superiority, but rather the acknowledgment of authority. Responsibility.

Ephesians 6:1-3
Children, 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.”

There were no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts that the Apostle Paul wrote so he went straight from discussing the Christian marriage to discussing the roles of children and their parents.

This suggests, to me, that the children were probably in the Ephesian audience in which this letter was read. I think that it is good to have children and youth in the worship service. It is good for them to see their parents praising and worshipping God.

On the other hand, if you seem bored with worship or even fall asleep, you can bet that they will notice that too.

Verse 1- Children, obey your parents: The command is simple. Children are to obey their parents. This not only means that children have the responsibility to obey, but parents have the responsibility to teach their children obedience – one of the most important jobs for a parent.

It makes no sense that God would require children to obey parents and yet not require parents to teach obedience to their children. It is part of our job — to teach children the glory of a happy, submissive spirit to authorities that God has put in place. Parents represent God to small children, and it is deadly to train children to ignore the commands of God.

It is essential that a parent teach the child obedience, so that the child will grow up knowing how to obey God even when he doesn’t understand everything or doesn’t want to.

What happens if we don’t teach our children obedience? Spiritual and physical ramifications. What happens if they don’t obey police or laws when they are older?

In Romans 1:28-31 Paul is talking about the ungodly and the unrighteous, people who have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator”.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

Paul is telling us that those who disobey their parents are in the same boat as murderers and God-haters.

These passages tell of how important it is that parents teach obedience to their children. Disobedience must be punished, so that obedience can be learned.

  1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

This means that when children obey their parents it is part of their Christian obedience, in a similar way to the wife’s command in Ephesians 5:22  “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord”.

The obedience of the child and the submission of the wife are both done to bring glory to God, not to the head of the household or to the parents.   

Verse 2-  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—

As you grow older and more mature, your relationship with your parents will change. You may no longer be required to obey their each and every word, but you are always told to honor them.

The family was created by God and therefore hated by Satan. The Enemies’ battle against the family is responsible for many of the problems with our society.

We must remember that we are called to respect the elderly, especially our own parents. I feel that we should go a step further and honor one another’s’ parents also. This idea seems lost on our society.

When the family unit breaks up, when respect for parents fails, the society becomes decadent and will not live long.

The idea of devaluing the elderly seems to go hand-in-hand with devaluing the young. Both of these ideas are part of the liberal, one-world-order agenda.

I am sure that you are well aware of the thousands of innocent children that have died at the hands of the abortionist each and every year since 1973. The elderly are now being targeted. It seems that Medicare will no longer cover many of the life-saving drugs that are needed by the nation’s elderly but Medicare is more than happy to pay for life-ending drugs for these same patients.

As Christians we, however, are commanded to Honor your father and mother.

The end of verse 2 says-which is the first commandment with a promise— We all know that the first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before Me”.

What does Paul mean when he says that “honor your parents” is the first commandment?

The first 4 are directed to God and the last 5 are directed to man. “Honor your parents” is the 5th commandment and first in the list directed to man.

The first commandment with a promise: Paul reinforced this idea with a reference to Deuteronomy 5:16, where God promised to bless the obedient child.

Deuteronomy 5:16
16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Colossians 3:20
 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4
NIV-Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
NKJVAnd you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
MessageFathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master

In verse 1, Paul tells the children to obey their parents, so why are the fathers singled out here in verse 4?

“Fathers” are singled out in this passage rather than “parents” because as you recall, the fathers have just been singled out as the head of the household. They are responsible for their children learning to obey, regardless if they are the ones who actually deal out the obedience; they are ultimately responsible for the outcome.

This is the same idea we find in Genesis when God asks for Man after the couple had eaten from the forbidden tree. Adam was responsible for the actions of his family.

Exasperate means to “excite the anger of” or “to cause irritation or annoyance to”. When Paul says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children”, he does not mean that you should not discipline them or that you should not make them angry. I can remember many that there were many times that I was angry over the punishment I had received from my parents even though I was guilty and deserved it.

“Do not exasperate” or “do not provoke your children to wrath” means that we as parents are not to over-drive our children. We are not to crush their spirit through an unkind, over-critical attitude that torments the child instead of training them.

Children need to realize that there are consequences for their actions and that they will be held accountable for them.

Children need to know what they are being punished for. They need to know the rules. Rest assured that children WANT to know the rules; they want to know their boundaries. That is why the continually test their boundaries, to see if they have changed.

Some years ago, I heard about a psychological study of the interaction of rules and creativity. You may have heard of this study which focused on the behavior of children playing in a schoolyard during recess. The aim of the study was to see what would happen if the playground fence was removed. Would the children experience more freedom and enjoy the openness of a fence-free playground?

When the fence was removed, and the children were sent out to play for recess, the researchers were surprised by what they observed. Instead of fearlessly exploring the newly unbounded environment, the children huddled fearfully by the school door, afraid to play where there was no fence.

Without a fence, there was no protection. A wayward automobile could careen through. A gang of toughs could freely enter the yard. A stray dog could prowl and threaten the children.

Fences can be a good thing. They provide a boundary (or at least the perception of one) that keeps out chaos. Boundaries also promote a feeling of safety.

Children want to know the rules and boundaries.

This verse, Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”, applies to all of us, church members, husbands and wives and also to children.

Ephesians 6:5-8
Slaves, 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 eye is 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 each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

It is estimated that slaves made up about 1/3 of the population of the city of Ephesus. They were considered an integral part of the family, so Paul’s instructions for slaves were a natural part of his dealings with family relationships.

In the United States, slavery, for the most part, has been abolished. But what happens if we take Paul’s instructions and apply them to today world?  This means that we would change the word “slaves “to “employees” and “masters” to “employers?”

The verse would read like this: Employees, obey your employer with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. This changes our whole perspective as workers. It reminds us that our work can and should be done as if we were working for Jesus – because we are!

Verse 6 tells us that we are not to try to win the bosses favor “when their eye is on us”. The NKJV calls this “eye serviceand people who do this are called “men-pleasers”.

What is Paul talking about here?

We are not to work with eye service (working only when the boss is looking, having a lookout) or as men-pleasers (those who only care about pleasing man).

Verses 7 says, Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,

Colossians 3:23 echoes this point, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,”

This concept went completely against the Greek culture at the time this letter was written.  In Greek culture, manual labor was despised and the goal of being successful was getting to the point where you never had to do any work.

In the kingdom of God, hard work and manual labor are honorable tasks and we are to give it our all.

Verse 8–   because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

Paul relates a final reason for working hard for the Lord. God will return to us in the same way that we have worked for others; God will not allow our hard work to go without reward.

The Apostle Peter also gives us advice about our work in 1 Peter 2:18-20
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

We aren’t all blessed with a fair, understanding employer who treats us with respect. But Peter tells us that our submission is necessary.

Ephesians 6:5-8 (The Message)
Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.

When do these rules NOT apply? When am I NOT obligated to submit to my boss?

When the employer tells me to do something illegal or something that goes against God’s word.

Some jobs are very exciting; you get to face new and different challenges each day. Others, however, can become quite boring and mundane.

God understands, being obedient and doing your job is doing the will of God.

Ephesians 6:9
And masters, treat your slaves 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 is no favoritism with him.

Basically Paul commands employers to treat their people fairly, don’t threaten them or play games with them.

God will judge the actions of employers the same as he judges the actions of the employees, without regard to wealth or position.

When we are obedient church members-
-when we are obedient husbands
-when we are obedient wives
-when we are obedient children
-when we are obedient parents
-when we are obedient bosses
-and when we are obedient employees, we show the world how Christianity works; we show the world Jesus Christ.

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