Gracefully Truthful

Family,Marriage,Neighbor,Relationship,Submission

Read His Words Before Ours!

Ephesians 6:1-9
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Proverbs 6:20-23
Exodus 20:1-17
Proverbs 6:20-23

In Ephesians 6:1-9, early Church apostle and preacher Paul shares how we can serve God through mutual submission within the family structure.

If you felt your hackles rise just reading the word submission, sisters, I see you.
To be honest, I am you.

This concept has been weaponized by many in the Church to bring great harm to those traditionally without power. We’re naming this for the evil it is, and we’ll be discussing submission as a call for believers to prioritize one another as a volitional act of service, to both the body of Christ and ultimately to Christ, who sacrificed Himself for us.

As Christ-followers, we are called to wholeheartedly pursue Christ, and we know true fulfillment comes from aligning our desires with God’s will. Within the family structure, children can begin this lifelong pursuit by submitting to the discipleship of loving parents, who are themselves submitted to God. 

Ephesians 6:1-3 echoes Exodus 20:12, establishing a framework for leading children through the counter-intuitive process of orienting ourselves toward loving God first, then others as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:34-40)

In fact, when God first began to teach the Israelites how to be a people devoted to Him, He paired instruction to love God above all else with giving parents the responsibility to instruct and train the next generation in devotion to God. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

The pursuit of knowing Christ surpasses any other, and our ultimate goal should be to deepen our relationship with Him, even if it means sacrificing our natural inclination to put ourselves first. We find true joy and purpose in knowing and serving Christ above all else.

Therefore, Proverbs 6:20-23 reiterates the call for children to submit to their parents’ discipleship into Christlikeness:

My son, keep your father’s command, 
And don’t reject your mother’s teaching.
Always bind them to your heart;
[. . .] they will guide you,
[. . .] they will watch over you,
[. . .] they will talk to you.
For a command is a lamp; teaching is a light,
And corrective discipline is the way to life.”

At this point, we need to clearly understand this is not a call to unquestioning obedience to every whim of an authority figure. The whole of Scripture reveals our righteousness comes not from adhering to rules and regulations, but from placing our faith in Christ. 

A child’s righteousness before God is not found in mere obedience to a parent’s rules, but in faithful pursuit of Christ. As such, Ephesians 6:4 radically flipped cultural norms upside down by instructing familial leaders to value as precious the spiritual lives entrusted to their care. 

From the establishment of the first families, God saw the tendency of parents’ hearts (especially fathers in deeply patriarchal societies) to perpetuate the first sin of humankind, curving in on themselves, prioritizing themselves at the expense of others. (Genesis 3) Instead of sacrificing those under their power in pursuit of their own desires, God calls parents to follow Christ’s example in sacrificing themselves in service to those under their leadership. (Romans 5:6-8; Matthew 16:24-25)

For both parents and children, true intimacy with Christ involves both experiencing the power of His resurrection and sharing in His sacrifice. We are called to embrace the joys and challenges of our faith journey, knowing that through it all, we become more like Christ.

As we turn our attention to the second part of today’s passage, let’s begin with another word of clarification. Ephesians 6:5-9 discuss the topic of slavery, which was a common practice in Biblical times (and far beyond). Near the beginning of the Old Testament, we see the family of Abraham (through whom God would establish the nation of Israel), torn apart and causing great harm to one another through enslaving children of God. (Genesis 16:1-10) Slavery was, and continues to be, a grave evil perpetrated against image bearers of God.

As such, today we will read verses 5-9 through the lens of wholeheartedly working in service to God. For many of us, this idea can be practically applied to submitting to our employers. 

Paul urges us to approach our employers with sincere hearts. (verse 5)

Recalling the concept of work was designed by God in Eden, Paul encourages Christ-followers into wholehearted effort, seeking to honor God with our work ethics rather than focusing on earning the approval of man. (verse 6)

In verse 7-8, we learn we can consider our work as an offering of worship to God, finding meaning and value in whatever task lies before us. And as we work, the attitude of our heart matters! Are we serving grudgingly, or with thanksgiving for an opportunity to emulate Christ?

Finally, Paul closes this passage with another radical upset to the traditional Roman household codes with which Ephesian readers would have been familiar: 

And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (verse 9)

Those of us in positions of authority, whether in the workplace or the home, are not exempt from God’s call to submit to another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21) In fact, Scripture reveals those who are given more power will be held to higher standards of accountability; those of us in leadership ought to exhibit the greatest levels of Godly submission. (Luke 12:42-48, James 3:1)

Our journey of faith is ongoing, marked by continual growth and pursuit of Christlikeness. We are encouraged to persevere in our walk with God, honoring Him and emulating Christ as we engage in godly submission. 

Father, our worth is not determined by societal standards or our roles within our families or jobs. Our worth lies in relationship with God, as image bearers and Christ-followers. Empower us to love, serve, and honor You first. Then give us grace and strength to love others through mutual and holy submission. We trust in Your righteousness to enable us to confidently fight for our families. Amen.

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family,gospel,humility,Submission,unity
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