Ephesians 6

The start of Ephesians 6 follows the idea of family relationships that chapter 5 ends with. However, this time it is the relationship between children and their parents. It begins with what is stated in the Ten Commandments, that children are to obey their parents.

Now, when we think of this commandment, we probably think mainly of Sunday school children learning to listen to and obey their parents as little kids ought to. However, when we have grown up, it seems we feel that as if that commandment is obsolete and we don’t have to fulfil it anymore. This isn’t the case. In Mark 7, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for the way their practices fail to honour their mother and father. Those Pharisees were adults being rebuked. This commandment is for adults too.

Maybe in society, we think that it’s automatic and if you did a good job when they were little, they will do it when they are older. But then the command should be “teach children to honour your father and mother”. Also, there aren’t commands in the Bible for things that are genuinely automatic, such as “Breathe.” The Bible, authored by God, speaks into the hearts of humans. Our bent is to be independent, stubborn and self-serving and honouring others often gets in the way of that. Honouring our parents requires consideration, thoughtfulness and care. I know I often fail to do it; it isn’t as habitual as it ought to be.

The next part also balances the relationship. Parents need to be good to their kids too.

The next part of Ephesians 6 feels a little off for our times. It’s about slaves serving masters well. However, in the Romans Empire, slaves made up a huge percentage of the population. Paul is simply speaking into the genuine reality of his day. He’s not turning a blind eye to it.

Paul also reminds slave owners that both they and the slaves are actually under the ultimate authority of God and it would be wise to remember that.

In all the relationships mentioned from the end of chapter 5 to chapter 6, Paul shows how there is a balance. Wives, honour your husbands; husbands, lay down your life for your wife. Children, honour your parents; parents, be patient and kind to your children. Slaves, obey your masters; masters, be kind to your slaves. In relationships that are often imbalanced and hierarchical (especially historically), Paul reminds us that God rules over us all and that his love, grace, mercy but also his power, might and wrath is the ultimate equaliser in all this.

Lastly, Ephesians has the famous Sunday school favourite, the armour of God. It makes a nice visual metaphor. However, sometimes this section can be delivered in a way that makes us seem like we are at the helpless mercy of the devil’s schemes and we need to hide and cower away. This isn’t the whole truth. Of course, on our own, we are helpless. But we’re not on our own. For the passage tells us this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Ephesians 6:10.

We have nothing to fear because we have God and his mighty power on our side. However, we need to make the most of it and not forget to use it!

So, I pray that I continue to go on in the Lord’s prayer.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Again, Ephesians 5 exhorts us to live carefully and wisely. Here, we follow God’s example because we are dearly loved children. That’s a really beautiful image. We are loved by God, and that love compels us to look to God and obey him and follow him. This very much reminds me of John 14.

In this chapter of John, the idea that obedience and love for Jesus and love for and from the Father are interconnected. Jesus’ words reminds us that we need to love him and that love is shown in keeping his commands.

“If you love me, keep my commands … Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them … Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

John 14:15-24

This passage in John also talks about how Jesus will send the Spirit to be with us. These ideas are also repeated in 1 John 4:

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:13-19

When we reread the first part of Ephesians in light of these verses, it’s easy to be encouraged.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore, it shows the importance of Paul’s prayer in chapter 3 for the Ephesians. So, again I pray that we can “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Yes, I pray that day by day I know more and more the love of Jesus and the love of the Father. And because of this knowledge of this love, I can follow God’s example and live a life of love. I pray that, through the power of the Spirit, I know the Father more deeply and completely. May my life be given up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

For the glory of Jesus’ holy name,

Amen.

Bible in One Year: Day 11

I didn’t manage to wake up at 5 am for this one, so it’s a good job that I’m doing it a couple of days early. I did find doing it just before bed seemed to be conducive to restful sleep.

I am really grateful for the devotions provided by Nicky and Pippa Gumbel. It does make the reading longer, as you have to read the devotions too, but they help prepare me to be more reflective before I start reading the passages. Also, using the YouVersion app means I can listen as I read, which means I’m less likely too skip bits or to read superficially. So, I’ve definitely found the experience meaningful and helpful.

Nicky Gumbel noted that the Genesis passage mentions success five times and that, in some way, all the passages were linked to success. Success is a blessing from God. It makes me wonder how much do I rely on myself for success and how much do I rely on God. Also, it makes me wonder how I measure success. At the start of the year, I did a couple of lessons about attitudes towards work with my students. I told them that their success is not up to them, so they needn’t worry about it. It’s up to God. It’s his problem so let him deal with it. They just need to be obedient and commit their work to God. I definitely need to preach to myself as well.

Psalm 8 repeats the idea of Genesis 1 that humans are the pinnacle of creation. It’s weird to think that humans are God’s greatest success. It’s strange that in one hand we have humanity as sinful and destructive and terrible, whilst in the other hand we have humanity as God’s pride and joy. There’s something to be learned in seeing the potential and the current reality and living in that tension. I think that’s something that as a teacher I have to attempt every day. I don’t think I manage it as well as I should.

I loved this bit of Psalm 8:

Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.

Psalm 8:2

How powerful are the praise of children and infants! God uses them so mightily: they defeat the enemy. As teachers, especially now as I work in a school that caters for the very little kids to the big kids, do we realise the amazing phenomenon that happens before us?

Matthew 9:16-17 has always been a source of confusion to me. I don’t really understand it in it’s given context. I think that’s an action point for a later date.

Verses 18-26 an interesting passage, as Jesus blesses the whole spectrum of the society of his day: the religious elite to the social outcast. I’m also amazed that people laughed at Jesus. I’m more amazed that we are fearful of being laughed at. Shouldn’t we expect it, after all? Also, if Jesus can deal with it, with the help of the Holy Spirit, so can we.

Again, my interest in mission makes the final verses of the Matthew reading particularly resonant.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 3Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9:35-38

I love the sense of cooperation: we are to join in with God sending his workers through prayer and through being sent. It’s great that we can be a part of God’s global plan for the church.

I’m struck by how exceptional the characters are of the Genesis passage. The servant is faithful and obedient and wishes to be successful for the benefit of his master. Rebekah is awesome and generous. Pouring water for a bunch of camels is no mean feat. She gives a lot of herself to this complete stranger. Her brother seems like a great guy too: he cares for the servant and he considers his sisters thoughts and feelings.

It’s also amazing how quickly God answers the prayer: before it had even been finished. I wonder how often God sets into motion the answer to our prayers before we even finished (or, in some cases, started) praying them. As we don’t have the eternal and omnipotent perspective of God I guess we often don’t know.

Dear God

Grant us success. This is not for our benefit, but for the glory of your son, Jesus Christ.

In his holy name,

Amen.