The Spirit-Filled Family

Ephesians 6

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2019

We have been studying the Book of Ephesians.  Today, we begin looking at the last chapter of the book.  Our topic today is the Spirit-filled home.  Ephesians is the only book of the NT that commands Christians to be filled with the Spirit. Paul mentions that in Ephesians 5.  The very next topic that Paul talks about is relationships.  There is a reason why he does that.  If you are filled with the Spirit, it will show up in how you relate to people.

It will show up in how you relate to people at home, at work and at church.  It will show up in how you relate to your neighbors.  It will show up in how you relate to people you meet in long grocery lines.  If you are mean and nasty to people, you are not filled with the Spirit.  If you are always negative and critical, you are not filled with the Spirit.  When you are filled with the Spirit, your relationships with people will look different.

We are going to talk about the Spirit-filled home from Ephesians 5 and 6.  Paul paints a picture of the Spirit-filled home in this section of Ephesians.  He shows us what it looks like to be a Spirit-filled wife.  He shows us what it looks like to be a Spirit-filled husband.  He shows us what it looks like to be a Spirit-filled child.

He shows us what it looks like to be a Spirit-filled parent.  He even shows what it looks like to be a spirit-filled slave and a Spirit-filled slave master.  Why does Paul talk about that?  Most homes in the Greco-Roman empire had slaves.  Homes in Paul’s day had slaves and masters and there were slaves and masters in the church Paul was writing to.

What does a Spirit-filled family look like?  Based on the Book of Ephesians, a Spirit-filled family has several characteristics. In a Spirit-filled family, husbands love and cherish their wives. Wives submit to and respect their husbands.  Children honor and obey their parents.  Parents discipline and train their children in a godly way without exasperating or provoking them. Biblical scholars call this “a family code.”  There are two things you need to know about this code.

Facts about the Family Code

1) This family code is balanced

These instructions are for everyone.  This code gives instructions for every member of the family.  Change is for everyone.  This is really interesting. The Bible is balanced.  Paul does not give all of the responsibility on one side and none on the other.  Those on the top of the hierarchy do not have unlimited power.

Paul does not just give a bunch of rules for wives, for children and for slaves.  He does not say that husbands can do whatever they want to wives. Parents can do whatever they want to children.  Masters can do whatever they want to do to slaves.  Paul does NOT say that.

Paul gives instructions for EVERYONE in the family because EVERYONE is accountable.  Everyone is accountable to God for his or her own actions.  All of those in authority OVER others will one day be accountable to God for what they do with their authority and how they use it.  All of those UNDER authority will one day be held accountable for how they responded to authority.

Church leaders are accountable before God for how they lead the church. We are accountable to God for how we respond to our church leaders.  Paul gives instructions for wives, but he also gives instructions for husbands.  He gives instructions to children, but he also gives instructions to parents.  He gives instructions to slaves, but he also give instructions to slave masters.

2) This family code is radical

Everything Paul says here is radical.  It was radical in his time and it is still radical today.

What Paul says to WIVES is RADICAL.  Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, 24).  Many wives today do not even believe in submission.  Some of them are in the church.  Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands IN EVERYTHING (Ephesians 5:24).  Many definitely do not believe in that.

What Paul says to and about HUSBANDS is RADICAL.  Paul says that husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23).  Many believe that the husband is the head of the wife or that there are two heads in a marriage, not one.

He tells husbands to love their wives.  That is not unusual. Many husbands love their wives, but Paul tells them to love them as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).  That is radical

What Paul says to CHILDREN is RADICAL.  Paul tells children to honor and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2).  This is God’s word to kids today.  What if kids do not like their parents?  Honor your parents.  What if they are not always fair?  Honor your parents.  Even if they are not a Christian, honor them.[1]  Whether they believe in God or do not believe in God, they are to be honored.

Many children today are disrespectful to their parents.  They do the exact opposite of what Paul said.  They talk back to their parents.  They mock them.  In fact, in many families today, the parents obey the children, rather than the children obeying the parents.  The children tell their parents what to do.  We call them permissive parents.

What Paul says to FATHERS is RADICAL.  Paul says that fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Fathers are to train their children in two areas – DISCIPLINE and INSTRUCTION, not just to eat their vegetables and have good manners.  Children have the responsibility to obey their parents IN THE LORD.  Fathers are to bring their kids up in the instruction OF THE LORD.

In many homes (even Christian homes), that is the job of the mother.  In the traditional family model, the father works and brings home the money, and the mother takes care of the kids and raises the kids.  Some fathers have never even changed a diaper.  It is not just the mother’s job or the church’s job or the job of VBS to train their children in the instruction of the Lord.  It is the father’s job.

In some homes, kids do not get any spiritual training or discipline, not from their father or their mother.  They do not have a lot of rules.  Kids can do whatever they want.  They let their children decide for themselves about religion.  They don’t make them go to church.  They make them take baths.  They make them go to school but not church.

Paul says something else to fathers: don’t provoke your kids to anger.  Apparently, the WAY we teach is just as important as WAY we teach. Kids can sin against parents but parents can sin against children.  That is interesting.  In Paul’s day, fathers had absolutely control of their kids.  They could do anything they wanted to their kids.  Children were just their property.  They could even sell them into slavery.  Paul says that parents do NOT have unlimited authority over their children.

What Paul says to SLAVES is RADICAL.  Paul does not just tells slaves to obey their masters but to obey them IN EVERYTHING (Colossians 3:22).  Paul was not big on slaves committing civil disobedience.  He did not encourage slave revolts or slave rebellion against their masters.

What Paul says to SLAVE-MASTERS is RADICAL.  Paul tells Christian slave masters to treating slaves with respect and not threatening them (Ephesians 6:9).  Not only were they not to mistreat their slaves and treat them like dogs, they were not to threaten them.  They were not to motivate them by fear.  What slavemaster did that?

Paul tells the slave masters that they are also under authority.  They have servants under them, but they are also servants.  The Greek word for master is κύριος. Every slave has a κύριος above him.  Jesus is Lord.

They are slaves of Christ and will be held accountable one day for how they treat their slaves and God shows no favoritism (Ephesians 6:9).  He treats everybody equally.  He does not give slaves special treatment.  He does not give masters special treatment.

Instructions to Children

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV).

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

What command is given to children?  They are to HONOR their parents (both their father and mother). They are to OBEY their parents.  Paul bases it on the Ten Commandments.  Paul quotes the Fifth Commandment.  Some Christians today think that the Ten Commandments are not binding today on Christians.  That is part of the Law.  Paul thought it still applied today.  In fact, he quotes one of the Ten Commandments and applied it to a Gentile church.

Paul doesn’t go into every possible scenario.  What if you don’t have a father or know who your father is?  What if you are raised by a single parent?  What if your parents do not deserve it, are you still supposed to honor them?  What if your parents are abusive?  Paul does not deal with all of these questions.  He deals with the general principle that children are to honor and obey their parents.

In the parallel passage, Paul says, “Children, obey your parents IN EVERYTHING, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20 ESV). In Ephesians, Paul said that wives were to submit to their husbands IN EVERYTHING (Ephesians 5:24).  In Colossians, he said that children were to obey their parents IN EVERYTHING (Colossians 3:20

Paul does not just tell them to obey their parents.  He gives them some REASONS to do it.  They should do it because it is RIGHT.  It may not be politically correct, but it is the right thing to do.  God commands it.  Paul says in Colossians that this pleases the Lord but there is another reason that kids should do this.

It is not only RIGHT; it is GOOD.  Obeying your parents and honoring your parents is good for you.  It leads to two things: PROSPERITY (that it may go well with you) and LONGEVITY (that you may live long on the earth).  This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that has a special promise attached to it.

These are two different things.  You can live a long life and be completely miserable or you can live a long life and prosper.  Proverbs 30:17 says “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures” (ESV). Did you know that there is a connection between how long you live and how you treat your parents?

Instructions to Fathers

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21 ESV)

We believe in something called the sufficiency of the Scriptures.  Paul said that God gave us Scriptures to equip us to do every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17).[2]  That means that Scripture is sufficient to equip us to be good parents.

To be good parents, all we need is the Word of God.  We don’t need a hundred books on parenting.  We don’t need to go to a bunch a seminars and take a bunch of parenting classes.  You don’t need Dr. Spock.  There is nothing with reading book on the subject but all we need to do is follow what Scripture teaches.  It is our manual for child-rearing.  Paul here gives some do’s and don’t in parenting.

Fathers are told to do two things.  They have two responsibilities.  One is POSITIVE (bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord) and one is NEGATIVE (don’t provoke your children to anger).  What do kids need?  They need instruction and discipline.

Kids are to obey their parents but they have to be taught obedience by their parents.  It is not something that they will do naturally.  They should learn about God from their parents.  They should be taught right and wrong from their parents.  They should be taught the gospel from their parents.  They should be taught the Bible from their parents.

There are two extremes when it comes to parenting.  On the one end of the spectrum are dictatorial or authoritarian parents.  On the other end of the spectrum are permissive parents.

Permissive parents have no rules.  They have no discipline.  Kids can do whatever they want.  Authoritarian parents have rules.  They have a lot of rules and some of the rules do not make any sense.  This style of parenting is not loving.  It is strict.  It is harsh.  It is all about power and control.

What Paul says is very interesting.  Kids are to have some instruction and discipline from their parents.  We are to train up our kids in the way they should go, as Proverbs says.  On the other hand, this discipline is not to be extreme.  It is not to be excessive, so the kids get discouraged and become angry.  Some parents are not strict enough.  Some are to strict.

Instructions to Slaves

5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. (Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)

Does the Bible Endorse Slavery?

What Paul says here is one of the reasons why many people reject Christianity.  Atheists use this passage as an argument against Christianity.

They say that God wrote a book and got it wrong on slavery.  They say that slavery is condoned in the OT and in the NT.  Paul wasn’t an abolitionist.  It is dehumanizing to own people as property and yet the Bible does NOT call for an end to slavery or even condemn it as an evil institution.

Instead, the Bible tells slaves to OBEY their masters.  In Colossians, Paul tells them to obey them IN EVERYTHING (Colossians 3:22).  He tells them to do it WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING (Ephesians 6:5).  In fact, Peter says, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to THE UNJUST” (I Peter 2:18 ESV)

Is the Bible pro-slavery?  Many have used the Bible to justify slavery.  Did Paul approve of slavery?  If slavery is a sin, why didn’t Paul attack slavery?

1) The Bible regulates slavery but does not endorse it

There are only three institutions that God created the family, the state and the church.  These are the three divine institutions.  Slavery is not one of them.  The family is the oldest institution in the world.  The church is the youngest of the three.  Slavery is not a divine institution.  It is a human institution.

The Bible does not approve of slavery but regulates it.  The Bible also regulates divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4), but God says that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).  Just because it is in the Bible does not necessarily mean that God approves of it.

The Bible has been used to justify both slavery and abolitionism.  People in the North and South both used the Bible.  To make the Bible pro-slavery, you have to cut out some verses.  There is a book called The Slave’s Bible.  It was published in 1807 for slaves but it only contained certain parts of the Bible.  Ninety percent of the OT was eliminated.

The Book of Exodus, which talks about the freedom of the Hebrew slaves, was gone.  Fifty percent of the NT was removed.  You can make the Bible look like it is pro-slavery if you only read certain verses.  Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18).

2) The Bible describes a different type of slavery than modern slavery

As bad as slavery was in the ancient world (and in many cases it was abusive and degrading), it was not anything like American slavery.  When we think of slavery today, we think of American slavery in the 1700 and 1800s.  That type of slavery was completely different from Hebrew slavery and from slavery in the Greco-Roman world.  What are some of the differences?

First, this slavery was economic, not racial.  It was not based on racism.  It was based on poverty.  It was debt slavery.  Some chose voluntarily to becomes slaves as a means of working off a debt.

In the South, all the slaves were black.  There were no white slaves.  In the OT, other Jews were put into slaver to other Jews.  Slavery in the Roman world was not based on race either.  They had slaves from all races.

Second, this slavery was temporary, not permanent.  Slaves in Paul’s day could buy their own freedom.  They could buy another people’s freedom (e.g., a spouse).  It was not necessarily lifelong or permanent.

Third, many slaves in ancient Greece and Rome were highly educated.  They performed many highly skilled jobs (e.g., doctors).  They wanted their slaves to be educated.  In the south, slave masters wanted all of the slaves to be illiterate.

3) The Bible has a spiritual emphasis, rather than a political emphasis

In our day, the big focus is on political change.  If we can just get the right person or the right party in office, that is all we need.  If we just pass the right laws, that is all we need.

Now, it is important to have good laws and you can be a Christian and serve in government.  Daniel served in the government in Babylon.  Joseph served in the government in Egypt. We are to be salt and light in the world.  God does call some people to go into politics.  He calls some to live in Washington and to serve in Congress.

The primary way to transform society is not through social activism.  That is the error of the social gospel.  Real change comes through spiritual redemption, not through social reform.  It comes through spiritual change, rather than through political change.  Man has a heart problem.

Harold Hoehner writes, “Christianity’s emphasis has always been on the transformation of individuals who will in turn influence society, not the transformation of society which will then transform individuals (I Cor. 1:18-2:6).”[3]

How does any of this applies to us today?  None of us are slaves.  What Paul says here has application to the workplace.  Some of us feel like slaves at work but how does slavery apply to work?  We can change jobs at any time but, remember, that this kind of slavery was not necessarily lifelong either.

Paul gives us a philosophy of work here.  He gives us God’s view on work.  I have to warn you that some of this you might find a little convicting.  Paul gives us four work principles for today.

Christian Work Principles

1) Work should be done DILIGENTLY

Colossians 3:22, a parallel passage, says that we are to work wholeheartedly (Christian Standard Bible). We should work diligently.  We should not slack off at work and do a halfway job.  We should have a reputation as Christians for doing a good job wherever we work.  We should not have a reputation for being lazy and not responsible.

2) Work should be done with a POSITIVE ATTITUDE

What did Paul say to servants.  He said that they were to render service “with a good will” (Ephesians 6:7 ESV).  Again, the CSB reads, “serve with a good attitude.”  Some people can go a good job at work but are very negative and critical.  They always have a bad attitude.  Christians should not be like that.

3) Work should be done FOR CHRIST

Paul says that our work should be done to the Lord (ESV).  Most of us go to work and see it as a means to provide for our families. We are working for ourselves and our families.  Paul says that we are to work for Christ.  To do that, we have to turn work into worship.  It is something that we do for Christ.

4) Work should NOT be done for people

Paul says that we are not to be men pleasers.  We are not to be people-pleasers (Ephesians 6:6).  Many Christians are people-pleasers.  We should care what our boss thinks.  We work for a boss but out goal should be to please Christ, not a boss.  We should not work really hard when the boss is around and not so hard when the boss is not watching.

[1] Honor your parents IN THE LORD does not mean to honor them if they are Christians.  We know that from the parallel passage in Colossians 3:20. It deals with WHY they should honor their parents and not WHO they should honor.  As Greek scholar Harold W. Hoehner notes, “the propositional phrase does not define the limits of obedience, but rather it defines the spirit in which the obedience is to be accomplished” (Ephesians, 786-787).

[2] https://media-cloud.sermonaudio.com/text/1120171812314.pdf

[3] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, 804.

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