A series of homilies on Ephesians 5 & 6
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages on Ephesians 5 & 6 (as well as other passages of Scripture) specifically targeted at reviving families and encouraging and exhorting husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children to do what God has commanded them to do, for if the church is to be revived and the country is to be awakened, the family must be revived first.
5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Grace makes us the servants of God while still we are the servants of men: it enables us to do the business of heaven while we are attending to the business of earth: it sanctifies the common duties of life by showing us how to perform them in the light of heaven.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “We have not yet resisted unto blood in prayer; nay, we ‘do not even get a sweat on our souls,’ as Luther put it. We pray with a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude; we pray chance prayers; we offer that which costs us nothing! We have not even ‘strong desire.’ We rather are fitful, moody, and spasmodic. The only power that God yields to is that of prayer. We will write about prayer-power, but not fight while in prayer.”
One of the wonderful things about God’s Word — and the epistles of the New Testament in particular — is that it addresses almost every situation imaginable that a Christian could face in this world. Just as we dealt with church member to church member relations, husband-wife relations, and parent-child relations, we are now going to deal with employer-employee relations. Perhaps, a better term to use would be authority-subject relations as this passage deals with all of that.
Servants are told to “be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh.” Now, most of us would not like to be referred to as servants. However, the Greek word Paul uses here is translated “slave, a bondman, a man of servile condition.” Slavery was a reality in the Roman Empire. It was a deeply ingrained social structure.
The New Testament writers do not explicitly condemn slavery. Rather, they call both slave and master to hold themselves to a higher standard, the standard that Jesus Christ laid down when He taught that every person must love their neighbor as they love themselves. This in itself would be the undoing of slavery. Handley Moule said, “The Gospel found slavery in the world; and in many regions, it was a very bad form of slavery. The Gospel began at once to undermine it, with its mighty principles of the equality of all souls in the mystery and dignity of manhood, and of the equal work of redeeming love wrought for all souls by the supreme Master. But its plan was not to better, but to undermine… So while the Gospel in one respect left slavery alone, it doomed it in another.”
Paul is writing to people who live with the reality of slavery. And he is telling them how they can be Christlike under circumstances that are not ideal. He says, the Christlike thing to do is not to be lazy, not to complain about how you are treated or whine about your wages, but to obey. Do what you are instructed to do. As an employee, one who works under the authority of another, that, too, is your responsibility. Even though you may not like your employment situation, you are to obey those who are over you “according to the flesh.” If it is a situation that is not ideal, then still obey with a great attitude and spirit and trust God to give you the desires of your heart.