From Ephesians 5:22 through 6:10, Paul dealt with three separate areas of society in which there had been gross inequity and abuse of power: husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and slaves and masters. The passage we look at today is a continuation of Paul’s explanation of the Ephesian Christian’s relationship with others.
This is the great duty of children: to obey their parents, for their own well-being. This word obey is, literally, the Greek word meaning stand under. It means “to be under another’s authority.” The emphasis here is on godly obedience that includes an inner reverence, because honor goes beyond simply following instruction—it involves an attitude and an outward action. This is not blind or mindless cooperation Paul was referring to. Rather, he continued to apply the principles of submission, grounded in a love and reverence for God, to real-life relationships.
These principles extend to the parent-child relationship as verse 4 highlights a father’s training and instruction of his children. Out of reverence for Christ (5:21) a father submits to his children by heeding Paul’s instruction to not exasperate them—by being sensitive to the children’s responses and needs.
Harold Hoehner writes that the “application of this passage to contemporary times must be done with caution” while also remembering that Paul was writing specifically for a society where slavery was a legal institution. Certainly in this passage there are principles that can be applied to employee-employer relationships, where the behavior of both parties should be a testimony to the unbelievers with whom they work. And for all of us, verse 7 can become a true theme of our lives: to be so filled with the Spirit, so submitted in reverence to Christ, that we serve wholeheartedly no matter what, no matter where. Serve the Lord, not people—in a church nursery, sitting in a sound booth, playing a piano, cooking a meal, writing a book. Serve Him wholeheartedly, above all.
In this moment, what is the theme of your life?
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