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I am currently preaching a sermon series on Sunday mornings at Wildwood Community Church called “Packed” – based out of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.  During this series, I am using my blog to post study prompts, devotionals, sermon audio/video, and discussion questions to help facilitate personal or group study of this book.  NOTE: At the bottom of this post, I have a set of links to previous resources in this series.

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Study Prompts #3

  1. Take a moment to pray.  Praise God for His Word and ask Him to teach you its truth, just as the psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:12-16, “Praise be to You, O Lord; teach me Your decrees.  With my lips I recount all the laws that come from Your mouth.  I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.  I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways.  I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your Word.”
  2. Read Ephesians 6:1-9
  3. The Greek philosopher Aristotle articulated a common Roman philosophy about slavery that most likely influenced the way the Ephesians viewed slave and slave owners.  Aristotle believed that slaves were like tools . . . similar to a hammer or rake in every way, just with the ability to talk.  This idea is offensive to our understanding today, but was a normal worldview in Ephesus in the first century.  This understanding led to the mistreatment of many slaves.  If the slave was not working at a satisfactory level, the slave owner had the right to starve them to death.  Such was the world’s way of understanding slavery in the first century.  In a dramatic contrast, Paul calls on masters to deal with their slaves in a very different way in Ephesians 6:9.  How would you summarize Paul’s commands to masters in this verse?  How does this contrast Aristotle’s understanding referenced above?
  4. The Master was to relate to the slave with the same motivation and heart that the slave related to the master.  This should come as no shock to those who have been listening to Paul’s words in Ephesians for the past two chapters!  Christians are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” regardless of whether they are male or female, old or young, slave or free.  In what way does Ephesians 6:9 instruct masters to structure themselves to build up their slaves?  If you are a person with responsibility over an employee, what can you apply from this passage?
  5. Reflecting on Ephesians 6:9, Bible scholar Leon Morris said, “This is a gentle reminder that earthly rank has no relevance in heaven.”  In what way do Paul’s words here support Morris’s comment?
  6. The New Testament is clear that there is no heavenly “class system” separating followers of Jesus.  All who are “in Christ” are packed full of the same blessings regardless of background.  Galatians 3:28 summarizes this perspective well when it says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, all who believe in Jesus are blessed equally with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).  All believers in Jesus are forgiven, cleansed of our sins, promised eternity, given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, etc.  At the same time the New Testament unifies the church without distinction, it also continues to acknowledge differences among people, including specific (yet different) commands to husbands/wives, children/parents, and slaves/masters from Ephesians 5:22-6:9.  Based on what you know from this study and about God’s plan as revealed in Scripture, how do you reconcile the unity of Galatians 3 and Ephesians 1 with the distinctions of Ephesians 5-6?
  7. STUDY NOTE:  New Testament scholar Harold Hoehner summarized the teaching of Ephesians 6:5-9 well in this way, “The application of this passage to contemporary times must be done with caution. Paul was writing specifically for a society where slavery was a legal institution. However, there are certainly some principles from the passage that can be applied to employee/employer relationships in the present time. Primarily, Christian employees should serve their employers with fear, diligence, integrity, and good will and Christian employers should deal with their employees with integrity and goodwill, without threats. Both Christian employees and Christian employers need also to realize that they have a heavenly master to whom they are accountable for their attitudes and conduct. Furthermore, the behavior of both parties should be a testimony to the unbelievers with whom they work.”
  8. As mentioned earlier in this week’s study, it is perplexing to modern readers why the New Testament does not demand more social action related to the big problems of the first century world.  No doubt, a society where 60 million people were held as slaves is a BIG problem, yet the New Testament does not demand Christians to outlaw the practice or to lobby for civil reform.  Some have even seen the commands of Ephesians 6:5-9, the book of Philemon and other places as tacit endorsements of slavery as an acceptable practice.  This bothers us, not only on an intellectual level, but on an emotional level as well!  Contemporary issues like abortion, human trafficking, severe poverty, and other problems are today’s BIG issues like slavery was in the first century.  Based on your study of this passage and your personal thoughts, what is the Christian to do regarding the big issues of our day?
  9. STUDY NOTE:  I do not believe that God wants His church to be silent about the BIG issues facing our culture today.  Where we have a chance we should stand up for the brokenhearted and the beaten down.  It is great to have Christian politicians and lobbyists working for changes in the broken systems of the world.  It is powerful to have an army of Christian volunteers caring for the hurting around us and giving voice to those who have none.  These are tasks that Christians can and should engage in.  However, passages like this also remind us that the world best changes one heart at a time.  The world’s ultimate problem is sin, and the world’s needed solution is a relationship with Jesus Christ.  More than just legislative changes to the world’s systems, people need a Savior and a total heart transformation.  As people come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, they gain a new master, are given a new identity, and have God Himself present with them through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This makes it possible for them to not live their lives for themselves, but to live their lives for their Savior.  Orienting our lives to Jesus first allows us to seek to build up one another instead of seeing others existing to build us up.  If the world were connected to Christ and rightly relating to Him then EVERY OTHER PROBLEM would be solved.  That said, the church should always major on Jesus and connecting people to Him above and beyond any program for social change.  The hope for social change comes from a world of people controlled by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18).  This is why sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the essential task of the church today.

For more resources related to this study of Ephesians click on the following links:


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