Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Text: Ephesians 6:1-9 (ESV)
The apostle Paul, in his power-packed letter of Ephesians, continues to stress the importance of relationships in Ephesians 6. Earlier he has discussed the unique relationship we share as husband and wife in the Christian home. A relationship is based on Christ’s love for the church and one that is a reflection of Christ and the church. Continuing in chapter 6, Paul discusses two other relationships common in the first-century Greco-Roman world. He discusses the relationships of Children and parents as well as bondservants and masters.
Text & Background
EPHESIANS 6:1–9 ESV
"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.” 4 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 in the previous devotional (Eph. 5:22-33), part of the difficulty with this passage is the historical context. When looking at passages such as this, we should keep in mind the context in which Paul was writing, the culture of his day.
Paul is writing to a first-century Greco-Roman world. Where fathers were head of the household and had complete authority within it.
Each of these relationships, the relationships of children and parents and also that of bondservants and masters, should be Christ-centered. Paul is advocating, in both cases, something that would have been unexpected in the first century. Each person in the relationship should treat the other as Christ would.
The language can be shocking when reading through texts like this. Today, we can look back and ask questions of the Scripture or of Paul, that neither he nor the Scriptures are asking. “Why did Paul (or Scriptures) not utterly condemn the practice of slaves and masters?” is an often asked question. Such questions can lead us away from the culture-shocking statements that are made. What Paul is advocating are Christ-centered relationships, a completely unexpected relationship within the first-century. Relationships of mutual respect, honor, love, and service centered on Christ.
Today, as we consider our relationships, are they Christ-centered relationships? As Christians today, in our homes and through our other relationships, Christ is to be the center. We, as Christians, should demonstrate His love, respect, honor, and sacrificial service.
Scripture taken from the English Standard Version, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.