Bonded servants were a normal form of employment in the First Century. The passage should not be read as an endorsement of bonded servitude. It recognized that many in the church may have been bonded servants or the employer/owner of a bonded servant. The passage lays responsibilities on both parties. How each should conduct themselves should be based on the relationship between Christ and the Christian. The Master should treat the servant as Christ treats the Christian. The Master should recognize that the servant is equal to him or her in in Christ. v6:8 The Master should not favour one servant over another and their attitude should be as Christ’s attitude towards the believer. At the heart of Christ’s attitude is righteousness, justice, mercy, purity, love and peacemaking. Mathew 5:1-12 He calls all Christians to act in this way whatever their status or role.
Employers and employees should conduct themselves with the same attitudes as they serve Christ. In both cases how they conduct themselves should be living out the gospel and in their lives as employees or employers how they behave has a missional purpose revealing the saving work of Christ in their lives.
God highly values the relationships between parents and children including them in the ten commandments. However, in Exodus and Deuteronomy it is only the child’s responsibility to honour the parent that is mentioned. Here the instruction includes the parent’s responsibility to the child. The balance in parental child relationships changes over the course of a life time. As in the marriage section the assumption is that the context of the instructions is that of a Christian family. The model for the human family is the relationship between the Christian and Christ as well as the relationship between Father and Son in the Godhead. Obedience to the Father mostly relates to a young child and parent. After all, when a child becomes an adult they frequently leave the parental home and marry to become one flesh with their marriage partner. However, honour and respect appropriately continue but take a different form. Jesus decried the Pharisee’s practice of not financially caring for their parents in old age by declaring they had devoted that money to the Lord. Mark 7:11
Parents need to be careful in their training of their children in the knowledge of the gospel. They clearly have a responsibility to bring children up in the faith but they are to do so in a way that shows understanding for the child and the love of Christ. Ephesians 6:4 As the child matures into adulthood Godly parents remain a great blessing to their children. However, the manner of the advice should demonstrate respect for their maturity and their independent responsibility towards God.
DAY 2 Marriage as an expression of the gospel – Ephesians 5:22-28
The New Testament perspective on Christian marriage is one of the union being an image of Christ’s union with the church. This union is so close it is to be the two becoming one flesh. The phrase is clearly not literal it is an image of being so close that the two persons are fully united, spiritually, emotionally and physically for equal mutual benefit. It is love so intimate that it is like loving one who is a part of themselves. Paul calls it a profound mystery because it reflects the completeness of Christ’s love for the church. Just as Jesus has presented his bride, the church, as pure through his baptism which represents his death and resurrection and cleansed by the word, v5:28so in Christian marriage that bond should be maintained as pure and unblemished. A Christian marriage should be characterized by mutual love for Christ and dedication to him because of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. A Christian marriage should also be maintained in its purity by the work of the word of God in their lives. A strong Christian marriage studies and lovingly applies the word of God to their lives together. In a Christ-like Christian marriage love and respect should co-exist. v5:33 Love should not patronize but recognize that both are equal heirs of God’s grace. 1 Peter 3:7 Recognition of that blessing makes the prayer life of the married couple more effective.
It is because Christian marriage is an image of Christ’s love for the church and the church’s love for Christ that it should be between two Christians. Christian marriage is missional in its purpose presenting an image of salvation. Where two people are married and only one of the couple is a Christian, scripture urges that the two remain married in the prayerful hope that the loving witness of the Christian will cause the other to be saved. 1 Corinthians 7:16 However the passages specifically on Christian marriage do not speak about a situation where a marriage is abusive and in such a situation love, righteousness and justice should be appropriately applied for the sake of the victim of abuse.
DAY 1- Equality of submission under Christ – Ephesians 5:21
Possibly the most overlooked sentence in the above passage is the opening sentence. ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ v5:21 The content of this section on close personal relationships was radical in the extreme at the time of writing and remains challenging today. It covers the intimate family relationships between married couples, parents and children as well as those at work. The cornerstone of all these relationships is the relationship between the Christian and Christ. Paul never intended his words to be removed from the context of Christian discipleship. What he instructs in this passage is only achievable in the context of one’s walk with Christ and the wider context of the passage it is all about the disciple’s walk and relationship with Jesus and should not be lifted out of that context. The notion of each submitting to one another was entirely new, utterly counter cultural and placed women into an entirely new equal and highly valued position. This passage has over generations been distorted and misapplied in the church, as well as being used in wider society, to justify one group not submitting itself to another. The underlying principle is that we are to love Jesus and each other as he loves us, with a sacrificial love. Our reverence for Christ can be measured by how much we love as he loves, seeking the very best for other person as he sought our salvation. Our relationships will increasingly prosper as we become more like Jesus in our hearts, minds and will.