Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 9

The topic of submission is not easy. Many of us, including Christians, are resistant to the idea of being a submissive wife, child, or employee. But it is exceedingly important that we realize the purpose of Godly submission, and the blessings that God provides when we willingly place ourselves in the submissive roles that He has ordained. Be filled with the Spirit!

Ephesians 5:22-6:9

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A.      “Household Code”

1.       Rooted in Mediterranean culture

a.        Influenced by Greek philosophy that affected Jews in the Hellenistic world

  • Philo: household management is assigned to men, but women have their own sphere of authority within the home
  • Josephus: under the Law, men have duties to God, to wives, to children, to parents, to friends, and to strangers
  • Aristotle: natural ruler + natural subject = marriage
    marriage + a slave = a household
    several households = a village
    several villages = a city-state

2.       Very early Christian writings contain “household code”

a.        Two types in Christian antiquity

  • Code of duties for the home (cf, Eph 5:22‑6:9; Col 3:18‑4:1; I Pet 2:13-3:7)
  • Code of duties for the church (cf, I Tim 2:1-2, 8-12; 3:8-13; 5:1-3, 17-22; 6:1-2)

b.       “The specified duties were very much the same in pagan, Jewish, and early Christian usage. Only the motivations for the specified behavior differed significantly.” (Talbert, p 138)

3.       Functions of the “household code”

a.        Missionary strategy (cf, I Pet 2:12; 3:1-2)

  • “If Christians who had changed their gods still maintained order in the household according to the best values of the culture, then they would decrease the hostility of their pagan neighbors and perhaps encourage them to convert.” (Talbert, p 138)

b.       To run counter to an “overrealized eschatology” (cf, I Cor 7:1‑24; 11:2-16)

  • At the time, some Christians claimed that because of their salvation they were no longer bound by the “orders of creation” (ie, categories such as slave/master or ruler/subject) because of the equality created by the Spirit. (cf, Col 3:22-25)

c.        Illustration of unity

  • A peaceful Christian household would illustrate God’s purpose in unifying the cosmos through Christ (Eph 1:10)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

The Two Ways form: Part II (5:1-21)

“Household Code” (5:22-6:9)

Wives and husbands (5:22-33)

Children and parents (6:1-4)

Slaves and masters (6:5-9)

**Important items to consider:**

1. Three relationships (6 groups) are presented

2. In each case, the subordinate member is mentioned first

3. In each case, the relationship being advocated is between the individual and Christ and is not based on the behavior of the other person

4. It is assumed that the household described in the text is Christian

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[22] Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

What are wives are to do? (v 22)
• Submit to your own husband as to the Lord

“Submit” in Greek is “hupotassō” meaning to be under obedience, to obey, be subject to, submit oneself to

In other words, submit to your husband in a way that is analogous to your submission to Christ (Talbert, p 140)

Why? (vv 23-24)
• Because the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body

“As Christian wives within the church are subject to Christ as head, so in the household they should be subject to their husbands.” (Talbert, p 140)
“How the Christian wives are to act is rooted in their relation to Christ. Their submission to Christ in church is the model for their submission to their husbands in the household.” (Talbert, p 141)

[25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

What are husbands to do? (v 25)
• Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

“Love” in Greek is “agapaō” meaning to be fond of, love dearly

In other words, love your wife in a way that is analogous to how Christ loved the church (his body)

Why? (vv 26-27)
• [so] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word

“Sanctify” in Greek is “hagiazō” meaning to make holy, purify, consecrate to God

“Cleanse” in Greek is “katharizō” meaning to make clean in the physical (ie, stains, dirt) and/or moral (ie, sin, guilt, wickedness) sense

“The image of the bath [of the bride] refers here to the cleansing that has happened to God’s people through the word of the gospel.” (Talbert, p 142)

• so that he might present the church to himself in splendor…that she might be holy and without blemish

“Splendor” in Greek is “endoxos” meaning glorious, noble, honorable, GORGEOUS

[28] in the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, [30] because we are members of his body. [31] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [32] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

What are husbands to do? (v 28a)
• Love their wives as their own bodies

“Body” in Greek is “sōma” meaning literal body (flesh)

Why? (vv 28b-33)
• He who loves his wife loves himself (cf, Gen 2:24)
• For no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body

“Since the husband and the wife are one flesh, to love one’s wife is to love oneself. What one loves, one nourishes and cares for. So there is an analogy when Christ cares for the church because we are members of his body.” (Talbert, p 142)

“Paul appeals to Gen 2:24 to argue that a bond between husband and wife is analogous to that between Christ and the church. It is this bond that makes the husband’s love for his wife and Christ’s love for the church a love for oneself.” (Talbert, 143)

[6:1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

What are children to do? (v 1a)
• Obey your parents in the Lord

“In the Mediterranean world, obedience to parents was the chief virtue of children. This was true for pagans, Jews, and Christians alike.” (Talbert, p 144)

Why? (v 1b)
• for this is right (cf, Rom 1:30; 2 Tim 3:2)

[2] “Honor our 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.”

What are children to do? (v 2a)
• Honor our father and mother (cf, Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16)

This commandment has the approval of Jesus (cf, Mark 7:10, 10:19)

Why? (v 2b-3)
• this is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land

In other words, we honor our parents because it is right, it is commanded by scripture, and scripture contains a promise to those who fulfill the command and honor their parents.

[4] Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What are fathers to do? (v 4)
• Do not provoke your children to anger…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord

According to Talbert, it was a Mediterranean cultural value that fathers teach their children, and fathers were ultimately responsible for the religious upbringing of their children. (p 145)

Paul is putting a level of restraint on parental authority by encouraging the use of discipline and teaching (encouragement and reason) as opposed to force (which is discouraging).

[5] Slaves, 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 servants 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 slave or free.

What are employees to do? (vv 5-7)
Three things:
• Obey your earthly masters (ie, employers) with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ
• not with eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart
• rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man

“The Ephesian household code assumes a Christian household that has slaves. From these slaves it asks for wholehearted effort in their duties.” (Talbert, p 147)

Why? (v 8)
• knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free

Why do we work in the first place? (cf, Eph 4:28; I Thes 4:11-12; I Cor 15:58)

Ultimately, we are working for the Lord and not for our employer. While we may receive a “reward” from our employer (a paycheck), it is the Lord who will truly reward us.

[9] 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.

What are employers to do? (v 9a)
• Do the same (ie, good) to them (ie, employees)
• and stop your threatening

Anger, threats, and punishment were the normal way to control slaves. (Talbert, p 147)

Why? (v 9b)
• knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven…and is not partial

Employers and employees have the same Lord who looks upon both with an impartial eye.

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Submission

a.        Effective household management

  • “In the Christian household, the subordinate figures are to yield to the dominant ones, while the dominant figures are to relate lovingly and humanely to the subordinate ones. The unity and harmony produced by this type of household management is yet another evidence of God’s summing up all things through Christ.” (Talbert, p 148)

b.       A result of being filled with the Spirit

  • “…but be filled with the Spirit…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5: 18b, 21)

c.        An imitation of Christ

  • Imitating the virtues of Christ in our personal relationships (wife, child, employee) is a microcosm of the unity and peace that God is forging in the cosmos (cf, Eph 2:11-22)

Homework for Week 10:

Read Ephesians 6:10-24 and consider the following questions:

  • Do you think it is legitimate to speak of certain aspects of Christian life in terms of “battle” or “spiritual warfare”? Why or why not?
  • Why are we commanded to put on the armor of God? What do you think can happen to us if we don’t?
  • How does clothing ourselves with the armor of God empower us?
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