Ephesians 6:1-9 (Study Prompts #3)

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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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Ephesians 6:1-9 (Study Prompts #2)

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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 #2

  1. As you prepare your heart for study, know that God desires to reveal Himself to you, and He has given you His Holy Spirit to guide you into truth.  Before you open in prayer, consider Jeremiah 9:23-24.  “This is what the Lord declares: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Pray for this understanding and knowledge of God with the Holy Spirit as your guide.
  2. Read Ephesians 6:1-9
  3. STUDY NOTE:  One of the most surprising things for 21st century Americans is the way the New Testament speaks about slavery.  The Roman Empire (which dominated the New Testament world) was full of slaves.  It has been estimated that 60 million slaves existed in the Roman Empire, some 33% of the entire population!  Though slavery was obviously a major problem at the time letters like Ephesians were written, the New Testament authors do not condemn its practice.  Instead, they give ethical commands for how to be a good slave or how to be a good master.  At first glance, this is confusing to our modern ears.  Before we indict this pattern, however, we must take time to see the effect that Christianity had on ending slavery at different points in history.  The Christian worldview erodes the slavery mindset and has led to many different abolition movements.  As Warren Wiersbe commented, “Just as the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield resulted in the abolition of slavery and child labor, the elevation of women, and the care of the needy, so Paul’s ministry contributed to the death of slavery and the encouragement of freedom.  However he was careful not to confuse the social system with the spiritual order of the church . . . The Christian faith does not bring about harmony by erasing social or cultural distinctions.  Servants are still servants when they trust Christ, and masters are still masters.  Rather, the Christian faith brings harmony by working in the heart.  Christ gives us a new motivation, not a new organization.”
  4. In Ephesians 6:5-9, Paul speaks directly to slaves AND masters.  What does this tell you about the membership of the Ephesian church?
  5. Do you think it is appropriate to apply the principles of Ephesians 6:5-9 to employer/employee relationships today (as most commentators do)?  Why or why not?
  6. In Ephesians 6:5, slaves are called to have respect for their master (obey with reverence).  Again, as with husband/wife and parent/child relationships, the obedience that the slave (or employee) has for the master is an act of obedience to the Lord.  This means that the slave is not required to obey his master if he is being asked to do something God condemns as sinful.  If you were to apply this to an employee/employer relationship today, what are some examples you can imagine where an employer is asking his employees to do something that would force the employee to sin if they were to follow their employer’s direction?
  7. Ephesians 6:6 admonishes the slave to not just be a “people pleaser” who offers “eye service.”  What do you think Paul is referring to when he says this and what application does it have for you in your job today?
  8. Slaves are called to have “good will” as they serve (6:7).  What does it look like to have “good will” as you serve in your job today?
  9. Paul implies that there is reward from Jesus for those who obey their master’s in this life.  The emphasis in this encouragement from 6:8 is that though we may not receive from our employers a reward for all we do in this life, it is still worth it to obey, since Jesus can reward us in eternity for our unacknowledged faithfulness in this life.  How does this motivate you in your workplace relationships today?

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

 

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Ephesians 6:1-9 (Study Prompts #1)

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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 #1

  1. As you pray for your study today, ask God to use His Word in your life as the writer of Hebrews prayed in Hebrews 13:20-21: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.”
  2. Read Ephesians 6:1-9
  3. Ephesian 6:1 begins with an address to children.  While all people are technically a child of someone (even if they are grown), the context seems to indicate that Paul is referring to “minors” in this passage.  Inside the divinely inspired Word of God, there is a message given directly and specifically to children!  What does this tell you about God’s connection with children, His expectations of them, and their role in the church?
  4. As we saw last week with Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives, the command for children to obey their parents flows out of Ephesians 5:1-21.  In other words, ALL Christians are called to have a transformation in the way they relate to others.  Christians are to imitate the love of God and serve and sacrifice for one another.  As Christians, we are not to see others as people who exist to serve us, but that we exist to serve others.  This general mentality on life is not natural for people, but in Christ, when we are under the Spirit’s control, we seek to submit to and build up one another.  This Spirit-controlled love makes it possible for there to be a totally different ethos that flows out of Christians marriages (5:22-33), families (6:1-4), and workplaces (6:5-9).  Given this context, what does it tell you about a child’s access to a real relationship with God and the importance of that child’s relationship with God on their life?
  5. Children are called to “obey their parents in the Lord.”  The clarification “in the Lord” is very important to applying this passage.  “In the Lord” modifies “obey” not “parents.”  This means that children are to obey the Lord first, then their parents.  This passage does not instruct a child to obey their parents if their parents are forcing them to disobey God.  What are some examples you can think of where a child would be instructed by their parents to DISOBEY God (thus a command the child would not have to follow because it is not “in the Lord”)?
  6. Ephesians 6:1 also says that “it is right” for children to obey their parents.  For a moment, reflect on that statement.  In what way is it “right” for a child to obey their parents?  Beyond just “because the Bible says so” what other reasons can you think of that make it “right” for a child to obey their parents?
  7. In Ephesians 6:2-3, Paul quotes the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) as further proof of why children should obey their parents.  This command includes a “promise.”  Obviously we can all think of examples of people who died young from tragic accidents or illnesses that were no fault of the one who died.  Given that, what do you think Paul meant when he said that children should obey their parents that they would “live long in the land?”
  8. STUDY NOTE:  The command to honor your father and mother was the fifth commandment that God gave to His people, Israel.  This commandment included the promise that if someone honored his/her parents, they would live long in the promised land God was giving them.  This “promise” was more of a proverb, or general truism, than an exact explanation of all of life.  Generally speaking, a child who obeyed their parents and learned self-discipline and the right way to live early would live longer than someone who lived in a constant state of rebellion.  While there are exceptions to this rule, there is truth in it as well.
  9. In the Romand/Greek culture, it would not have been out of place for a child to be admonished to obey their parents . . . this was expected.  In fact, fathers in particular had an amazing amount of power in their homes.  Ancient writers let us know that fathers could even pronounce the death penalty for those in their home without further repercussions.  Into this world, God speaks and lays out a new pattern for parents relating to their children . . . specifically fathers.  Fathers are to NOT use their authority as a parent as an opportunity to harm their children, but they should see their role as parent as a responsibility to build up their child “in the Lord.”  This sounds reasonable to many today, but was revolutionary in a pre-Christian world.  In what way do parents structure their lives to support and build up their children?
  10. In Ephesians 6:4, the father is called to not “provoke to anger” or exasperate their children.  The opposite of this is to encourage or build up.  It is clear from the rest of 6:4 that the father is not to merely give the child everything they want (i.e. they are to instruct and discipline the child), but they are to do it in such a way that does not exasperate the child.  What are some things that parents do to lead their children in a way that pleases the Lord?  What are some things that parents do to exasperate their children?

 

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

 

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Packed #10 Sermon Audio/Video

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On Sunday, July 27, I preached a message at Wildwood Community Church based out of Ephesians 5:22-33.  This message was the tenth in the “Packed” sermon series.  Below you will see audio and video files of the sermon for listening or download.

 

To download the audio to listen to later, click on this link:

Packed #10

 

To listen to the audio online, use the media player below:

 

 

To watch the video of the sermon, view via Vimeo below:

 

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

 

 

 

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Packed #10 – Sermon Discussion Questions

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On Sunday, July 27, 2014, I preached a message based out of Ephesians 5:22-33 at Wildwood Community Church.  Below you will see a list of questions for group discussion tied to this sermon.

Small Group Discussion Questions (Eph. 5:22-33)

  1. Read Ephesians 5:22-33
  2. How would you define what the Bible says is the role of “husband” and “wife”?  How does the world define the roles of “husband” and “wife”?
  3. In Ephesians 5:21, all Christians are called to submit to one another.  In what ways do you see an attitude of submission in the commands to wife AND husband in Ephesians 5:22-33?
  4. A definition of the word “submit” is to willingly lay down one’s life and to structure what we do in such a way to support another.  What do you think it practically looks like for a wife to submit to her husband?
  5. The clarifying comment “as to the Lord” found in 5:22 indicates that a wife’s submission to her husband is ultimately an act of obedience to God.  Since her ultimate allegiance is to God not any man (including her husband) a wife should not follow her husband into something that is clearly sin in the eyes of the Lord.  What are some examples you can think of where a wife should NOT follow her husband’s lead?
  6. The husband’s call to love his wife in a self-sacrificing way, working to build her up and help her be all God has created her to be is a high calling.  What does it look like (in your opinion) for a husband to live out this calling?
  7. Genesis 3:16 details some of the effects of the fall on husband/wife relationships.  Because of sin, husbands want to dominate their wives and wives want to control their husbands.  However, under the control of the Holy Spirit (5:18), a Christian marriage looks very different.  The Christian marriage is marked by support, love, self-sacrifice, and building one another up.  Think of the Christian marriages you know.  Do more look like Genesis 3:16 or Ephesians 5:22-33?  Why do you think that is?
  8. How does the example of Christ’s relationship with the church encourage and challenge you with regards to your own marriage (if you are married) or your future married (if you hope to be married one day)?
  9. Any particular application you took away from this passage this week?

 

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

 

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The Good Spouse

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God has blessed me with many incredible gifts, but (after salvation) the greatest gift He has given me is my wonderful wife, Kimberly.  Next month we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary.  We have laughed together, cried together, had a child together, and served Christ together for two decades (as either married or dating).  I am so thankful to have the privilege of living out my life married to Kimberly. 

As a husband, I can honestly say that in 18 years of marriage, I have never woken up (not even one time) and said to myself, “You know what?  I plan on being a terrible husband today!”  Not one day of my life has begun with that as my goal.  Further, as a Pastor, I have had the privilege of officiating the weddings of nearly 100 couples over the past 14 years (one of the blessings of being in a college town and a church with many younger people in it.)  Before I officiate a wedding I always want to meet a few times in advance with the couple to get to know them and to discuss God’s plans and purposes in marriage.  In all my conversations with these couples, I can also say that not one future husband or one future wife has ever told me, “I plan on failing as husband,” or “I plan on failing as a wife.”  Being a bad spouse is NOWHERE on a sane person’s “to do” list. 

What I have found, however,  is that though this is not our goal, many husbands and wives spend lots of time feeling like they HAVE flunked or ARE flunking “Home Life.”

Though I desperately desire to be a good husband, I struggle with feelings of failure in this area as well.  Sadly, I do not think I am alone in this arena. I have even talked to husbands and wives who think they have so failed in their roles that they have no hope in their marriage and are considering divorce or have stopped working on their marriage altogether, resigning to live a distantly connected yet unhappy life.

Why is this?  Why is it that we so desperately want to be a good spouse, but so often feel like a failure?  Self reflection, Scriptural study, and conversations with others have helped me to see two primary reasons for our feelings of failure in our married roles:

First, the presence of sin in a marriage makes us prone to feelings of guilt and failure.  Every husband and every wife (if you are married this includes you and your spouse) are sinners.  This means that to some degree the residue of anger, unforgiveness, lust, lies and other sins gum up the gears of our marriage.  There is no person in the world in a better position to know your sinfulness than your spouse, AND you know it.  That is why when we relate to our spouse, often we feel “naked and ashamed” like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they had sinned.  We feel like failures as a spouse because we are sinners, and in marriage that sin is known.  God is calling us to live righteous lives, yet too often we feel wretched.

Second, a lack of clarity in our understanding of marriage roles makes us feel like failures.  Think about it, we desperately want to be a good husband or a good wife, but what does it mean to be a good spouse?  What is the job description?  Many times, we cannot articulate what we are supposed to do.  So, in place of a good job description we fill this vacuum with a nebulous combination of ideas that are always “just out of reach.”  Without fully understanding her call of what a Christian wife is to be according to the Bible, a woman can feel defeated because she does not:

  • Decorate to a level that inspires “Pintrest interest.”
  • Have a family that BEHAVES as perfectly as her Christmas Card picture LOOKS.
  • Look like a supermodel.  All the time.  Every day.  With no effort.
  • Make her own laundry detergent from organic products grown in her own backyard.

Similarly, if the Christian husband does not have an accurate definition of what it means to be a husband, he can feel defeated if he cannot:

  • Upgrade his home’s electrical circuits (do the whole thing in 220 . . . 221 . . . whatever it takes).
  • Be the guy Dave Ramsey calls for budgeting tips.
  • Able to recite the entire New Testament in Greek and Latin.
  • Make $100,000 a month in a fulfilling job that allows you be home by 4:00 PM each day.

It has been my experience that many spouses ASSUME they know what God is calling us to as husbands and wives, yet too often we are ignorant what that role really is.

As a husband and as a Pastor I find myself often retreating to Ephesians 5:22-33 for personal meditation or Pastoral mediation in order to encourage people struggling with either of the two reasons mentioned above.  In these verses, Paul outlines the role of husband and wife.  His basic call to both husbands and wives adds clarity to what God really wants from each.  Meditating on  these verses helps me as a husband to know what God is calling me to do.  I should aspire to live into this definition of role, but I should also find it freeing.  Many of the things I feel defeated about in my role as husband are things I added to the list, not God, and ultimately my life is about pleasing Him!

In addition to a clarification of roles, I also see hope for marriages made up of sinful people (i.e. all of them).  Wives are called to submit to their husbands willingly, and husbands are called to lead their wives in a loving and sacrificial way.  This is a high calling that no doubt will be difficult for the Christian husband or wife to live out perfectly.  However, God has not left the husband or wife alone in their endeavor.  He has given them four powerful gifts to help them live out a truly “Christian marriage”:

  • First, He has saved them from their sins.  The ultimate consequences of sin were paid for in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross so that husbands and wives (and any person who trusts in Him) can have their sins forgiven.  Not only does He save us, but Jesus cleanses us and presents us righteous to God (Ephesians 5:26-27).  A Christian marriage is a union between two sinful people (yes) . . . but it is MORE than that.  It is also a marriage between two FORGIVEN people, and this makes an amazing difference.
  • Second, He has given them His Spirit to indwell them, empower them, and compel them to live lovingly and submissively with each other.  Ephesians 5:22-33 is closely tied to Ephesians 5:17-21 where the Spirit of God is seen to have the ability to control believers to follow God in a supernatural kind of obedience.  One of the marks of a Spirit-filled person is the way they relate to their spouse (according to Ephesians 5:18-33).  Praise God, one of the reasons He has given His Spirit is to empower Christian marriages with His loving presence!
  • Third, He has given them an example.  Like we saw last week in Ephesians 5:1-2, Christians are called to imitate Jesus Christ, including HIs love.  The love, forgiveness, and support we have in Christ are THE BLUEPRINT for imitation for husbands and wives in marriage.
  • Fourth, He has given them time.  The marriage covenant is something that cements two people into “oneness” (5:31).  Knowing that you will be together for the duration of this life is a powerful motivator to work on the marriage.  Marriage works when the husband and wife are not looking for ways OUT of the marriage, but when they are committed to staying IN the marriage for the long haul.  In a sense, God “burns the ships” in the harbor when couples get married, forcing them to make a new life together, not longing for a return to someplace else.

So, if you are married and desire to be a good spouse, have a personal marriage retreat in Ephesians 5:22-33 and find God’s plan and provision for the marriage you have always wanted.

This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church, I will be preaching a sermon based on Ephesians 5:22-33.  This message will be part 10 in our 12 week series on the book of Ephesians that we have entitled “Packed.”  If you are in the area this weekend, we would love to have you join us in either our 9:30 or 10:50 worship services.  We will also be serving communion this week in both services and celebrating the baptism of 7 individuals.  Join us Sunday!

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

 

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Ephesians 5:22-33 (Study Prompt #3)

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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 5:22-33 – 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 5:22-33
  3. In Ephesians 5:31 Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to emphasize the oneness that exists between a husband and wife.  What do you think it means to say that a husband and a wife are “one flesh?”
  4. When a husband and a wife get married, they “leave” their parent’s homes (i.e. are no longer under their authority and should no longer be controlled by the influence of their parents) and “hold fast” or “cleave” to each other.  The Greek word that lies behind “hold fast” is a word that means to cement something together . . . to make a permanent bond.  “Oneness” implies unity, but it also implies permanence.  In a world that often understands marriage as a simple contract of convenience that can be dissolved with the stroke of a judge’s pen, God’s intention for marriage is that it would last because a husband and wife have been cemented together as one flesh.  Understanding the “holding fast” nature of Christian marriage, how would you advise someone who was considering marriage (in light of this passage)?  In light of this passage, how would you advise someone who is currently married but struggling and considering divorce?  How would you advise someone who is recently divorced?
  5. The picture for the permanence of the marriage relationship is the relationship between Jesus and the Church (you and me.)  Jesus does not give up on us because we are “quirky” or “difficult’ or have hurt Him.  Jesus maintains His commitment to us even through our failures.  This becomes the picture of the kind of commitment Christian husbands are to have for their wives.  As the early church Father John Chrysostom wrote, “Hast thou seen the [submission of the wife to the husband]?  Here also is the measure of love.  Wouldst thou that thy wife shouldst [submit] to thee as the church doth love Christ?  Then have care thyself for her as Christ does for the church, and if it be needful that thou shouldst give thy life for her, or be cut to pieces a thousand times, or endure anything whatsoever, refuse it not.  Christ brought His church to His feet by His great love, not by threats or any such thing, and so do thou conduct thyself toward thy wife.”  The key to a lasting, loving “oneness” in marriage is found in imitating the love of Christ as husbands to wives and wives to husbands.  How does Jesus commitment to us provide a great model for a lasting marriage covenant?
  6. In Ephesians 5:22-33, husbands and wives are seen as occupying complementary roles.  In Ephesians 5:33, they are given nuanced summary commands:  husbands to “love” their wives, and wives to “respect” their husbands.  Why do you think different commands are given here?  Given what you have learned through this passage this week, what do you think Paul was emphasizing in these separate but parallel commands?
  7. STUDY NOTE:  In Ephesians 5:32, Paul says “This mystery is profound.”  The mystery he is referring to is that the husband/wife relationship is patterned after the Jesus/church relationship.  This is a mystery because this picture is something we would not know if God did not tell us.  From the time of Genesis 2:24 until Ephesians 5:32 (a period of at least thousands of years), humanity did not understand the picture that God had embedded in His plan for marriage.  The husband/wife relationship between Christian spouses is designed to illustrate to the world the nature of the relationship between Jesus and the church.  This intended pattern is why Christians should be vigilant to fight for truly distinct Christian marriages that embody love, support, dependence, care, and commitment.  While it is not inappropriate for Christians to fight for the definition of marriage OUTSIDE the church, it is absolutely critical for Christians to teach and maintain Ephesians 5 type marriages INSIDE the church. This is why churches often get involved in admonishing parishioners who are abandoning their spouse to repent of that sin, not only because of the desire for personal holiness, but also because of the reputation of Christ and the church’s charge to represent an accurate picture of His character to a dark and dying world.
  8. Scan back through Ephesians 5:25-31.  What do you see in these verses about what Jesus does for the Christian?  How does He love us, support us, and care for us according to these verses? 
  9. Scan back over Ephesians 5:22-24.  Knowing what you know about Jesus and what He has done for you, how are you motivated to submit your life to Him?  Is there an area of your life that you have been withholding from God in rebellion (or ignorance) that you need to lay before Him as you submit to Him in “all things”?

 

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

 

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Ephesians 5:22-33 (Study Prompts #2)

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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 5:22-33 – Study Prompts #2

  1. As you prepare your heart for study, know that God desires to reveal Himself to you, and He has given you His Holy Spirit to guide you into truth.  Before you open in prayer, consider Jeremiah 9:23-24.  “This is what the Lord declares: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Pray for this understanding and knowledge of God with the Holy Spirit as your guide.
  2. Read Ephesians 5:22-33
  3. After spending a few verses discussing the wife’s calling, Paul now focuses on husbands.  I mentioned yesterday in the study that the wife is called to submit to the husband, not the husband to the wife.  However, ALL Christians are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21).  One other thing we saw yesterday in our study was that a possible interpretation of the word “submit” was “to structure to support.”  Read Ephesians 5:25-30 (Paul’s instructions to husbands.)  In what ways do you see this call to husbands as an admonition for husbands to “structure their lives to support” their wives?  Certainly there is import and distinction with the use of the words “submit” to the wife and “love” to the husband (we will talk about that in a moment), but there is also a similarity.  In what ways do you see this call for husbands to love AS A CALL to submit?
  4. In Ephesians 5:1-2, all Christians are called to imitate the love of God that was manifest in Jesus sacrifice on our behalf.  This is a self-sacrificing love that seeks the best for the one being loved.  A Christian worldview would have us see others existing as people we can serve, not as people who are there to serve us.  It was extremely important to Paul to clarify that this mentality FIRST exists in the way a husband loves his wife, not just in the way he loves his other neighbors.  In Paul’s day, husbands routinely treated their wives like second class objects.  It would not have sounded totally out of place when Paul called for wives to submit to their husbands, but it was earth-shaking news when he said that husbands were to see their wives as people they were to sacrifice for and build up, NOT as someone they were to use.  If you are a husband, think for a moment about what it would look like for you to structure your life to build up and support your spouse?  What would you continue to do, stop doing, start doing, etc.?
  5. STUDY NOTE:  Certainly there has been much harm done and taught in the name of male/female relationships throughout the history of mankind, and even the history of the church.  Much abuse, neglect, and disrespect has been committed or justified based on half-baked or totally errant understandings of passages like Ephesians 5:22-33.  However, in modern times, there has been a temptation to “swing the pendulum” all the way back in the other direction.  There has been a desire to make men and women identical and totally dissolve biblical gender roles in marriage.  This pendulum swing can end up swinging the conversation outside the bounds established by God in the New Testament.  As Darrell Bock says, “To speak in terms of functional equality for husband and wife erroneously removes the complementary quality of the relationship and invalidates the comparison to Christ and the church, who are not functionally equal.”  What Bock is saying is that while men and women are equally gifted, valued, and blessed, God has also set aside complementary roles for husbands and wives in the family.  The chief role of the husband seems to be as a leader (not a dictator, but a leader of the family).  Like any good leader, the good husband is not to DO everything, make every decision, have every good idea, etc. for the family.  Instead the good husband sets an environment where every person in the family (especially the wife) exhibits all their beauty, gifts, wisdom, and experiences.  The role of the husband is to serve the family (especially his wife) by creating an environment where she can flourish.  This understanding of the role of the husband is consistent with Ephesians 5 (as we will see with the rest of our study today) but flies in the face of chauvinistic chatter that has devolved out of wrong application of these principles.
  6. In 5:26-27 Paul calls on the husband again to imitate Christ by caring for the spiritual life of his wife.  As Christ cares for our souls, so husbands should lead out in the family by caring for the soul of the wife that she might grow into all God has intended for her.  As mentioned previously in the study note found in point 5 above, to lead, the husband serves by cultivating an environment where things happen.  A husband leads spiritually NOT by always being the first to pray, have the deepest spiritual insight, have memorized the most Scriptures, etc. (though these may be helpful things!)  The husband leads spiritually by upholding the value of rightly relating to God as a family.  I say this because I know from experience (both personal and in consultation with many Christian husbands) that too many Christian husbands feel defeated every time their wife is the first to remind them to pray, or if they share a good spiritual insight about a situation at hand.  The husband feels defeated because they misunderstand what it means to lead.  The good leader sees the wife’s request to pray as a GIFT from God . . . something to be encouraged . . . not a sign of their own failure as a person. That said, what are things husbands can do to cultivate an environment where their wife (and family) flourish spiritually?
  7. In 5:28-30, Paul expands the call for husbands to imitate Christ in their love for their wives by also providing for their physical needs.  What is the argument/logic that Paul uses for why a husband would help provide for his wife physically?
  8. Some of the most basic physical instincts are to provide adequate covering/clothing, food and water for ourselves.  When we are hungry we eat.  When we are thirsty we drink.  Why do we do these things?  Because we love ourselves.  That is, we care that we are alive, so we will naturally do things to perpetuate our survival.  Since husbands and wives are “one” in the Lord, the natural desire to care for one’s physical needs extends from the husband caring for himself, to the husband now caring for himself AND his spouse.  Again, this passage does not indicate that the husband must make all the money or most of the money; it does not indicate that the husband should make all the decisions on the houses, food, or major financial decisions.  What the passage IS saying is that the husband should lead out in a family to make sure that the family has adequate food, shelter, clothing, and other physical necessities.  What do you think it would look like for a husband to effectively serve his family by leading out in this area?
  9. STUDY NOTE:  The wife is not called to demand this love from her husband . . . instead the husband is called to willingly lay down his life for his wife.  Notice that the commands to both the husband and the wife revolve around their ongoing decision to serve one another as an act of obedience to Jesus Christ.  Notice also the tie back to 5:18.  The life that is controlled by the Spirit of God relates to others differently, especially the relationships that are at the center of our lives.  Husbands and wives naturally (because of the effects of sin) want to control each other, but under the Spirit’s control, they transform to serving each other to support each other in God’s best for their lives.  The Christian marriage is truly a supernatural gift to the husband AND the wife.  When two Christians are dependent on the Spirit’s power and committed to being controlled by His plan that is revealed in Scripture, the husband and wife commit to developing each other’s inner beauty and to live aggressively according to God’s plan for the rest of their lives!  What a contrast to the control and chaos of Genesis 3:16!
  10. Is the picture of Christian marriage described in Ephesians 5:22-33 attractive to you?  Trouble you?  Confuse you?  What are your general thought so far in this study?

 

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

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Ephesians 5:22-33 (Study Prompts #1)

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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 5:22-33 – Study Prompts #1

  1. As you pray for your study today, ask God to use His Word in your life as the writer of Hebrews prayed in Hebrews 13:20-21: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.”
  2. Read Ephesians 5:22-33.
  3. STUDY NOTE:  In most English translations, there is a subject header that appears between Ephesians 5:21 and 5:22 that reads “Wives and Husbands” (or similar).  Headers like this were added by English translators to make the Scripture more accessible to the average reader today.  In the case of Ephesians 5:21-22, though, it may be that the added header (which was NOT in the letter’s original Greek language) may actually cause us to not fully understand the meaning of the passage that follows.  While 5:22-33 DOES begin commentary on wives and husbands, it is grammatically, thematically, and even theologically dependent on 5:17-21.  One indicator of the close connection between these sections is that the main verb of 5:22 (“submit”) is not even IN the original writing of the letter . . . 5:22 pulls the word “submit” forward from its use in 5:21.  Literally the verses read like this, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ: wives to husbands as to the Lord.”  Seeing this close tie between these verses is extremely important.  In other words, “submission” is a Christian commandment, not just a commandment to wives.  All Christians are to have an attitude about life that puts others wants, needs, and desires above their own.  Christians are a people who serve others to be all that God created them to be, not make demands of them for our own benefit.  Further, the ability to submit to one another is not a natural tendency for mankind, but a supernatural provision from God.  When believers are “controlled by the Holy Spirit” (5:18) they respond by submitting to and serving one another.  God wants to work within us as Christians under His Spirit’s influence, so that our families are marked by love and respect, not control and domination.
  4. In 5:22, Wives are called to “submit to your own husband.”  Some have erroneously argued that men are better than (or more important than) women, using this passage as a proof text.  However, this passage says no such thing!  As a matter of fact, whatever it means to “submit,” there is tight definition placed around who the wife is to submit to.  Who is the wife to submit to according to 5:22?  All men, or something more specific?
  5. Since all Christians are called to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21), why do you think Paul goes out of his way to call wives specifically to submit to their husbands (especially when husbands are not called specifically to submit to your wives)?  What do you think Paul is trying to communicate here?
  6. STUDY NOTE:  In the beginning, God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden.  God also created Eve and together God gave them a life and a mission (see Genesis 1&2).  However, eventually, Adam and Eve sinned, and because of their sin, mankind “fell” into the darkened state that has persisted in this world to this day.  The fall of mankind carried with it a number of consequences, including consequences for husbands and wives.  In Genesis 3:16 God speaks to the consequences of the fall on married people when He says, “[The wife’s] desire will be to control [her] husband, and he shall dominate over you.”  This verse indicates for us the sinful seedbed that has haunted male/female relationships for millennia.  God says that because of sin, husbands and wives will not submit to and love each other naturally, but women’s temptation will be to control her husband, and the husband’s temptation will be to dominate his wife.  Neither of these were His plan for marriage from the beginning and they both carry with them disastrous consequences!  Instead of husbands and wives trying to control or dominate one another, a Christian marriage is a marriage of placing the other’s wants, needs, and desires above their own.  When the Spirit is controlling a marriage, it restores a marriage relationship to the Eden-like environment of wanting to serve, not dominate your spouse.
  7. Wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.”  I think this last phrase is best understood with the following paraphrase, “Wives submit to your husband out of obedience to Jesus Christ.”  In other words, Jesus has commanded us to submit, therefore, we submit out of obedience to Him.  This perspective adds three important nuances to the meaning of this passage.  First of all, it makes wive’s submission to their husbands a matter of spiritual importance not just relational convenience.  In other words, the wife submits to her husband in order to obey God, not just because she “wants to” or because her husband has “earned the right.”  The second perspective this adds, is that it places submission to God at the forefront, not submission to a man.  If a husband is asking his wife to do things that are against what God wants, the wife should not do those things, as her allegiance is ultimately to God.  Third, the tense of the verb “submit” in 5:21 is in such a voice that conveys that it is an ongoing action that is voluntarily brought upon oneself.  In other words, the husband is not called to demand submission from his wife or to force her to do anything.  The wife is called to follow the husbands lead of her own accord as a step of obedience to God.  Reflect a bit on these three perspectives.  What other questions, concerns, issues do these raise with you?
  8. The husband is said (according to 5:23) to be the “head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church.”  What do you think “headship” means in the husband/wife relationship?  How does the parallel between Christ and the church help you understand this?  How does it complicate things for you?
  9. STUDY NOTE:  Understanding the biblical term “headship” is important in this passage.  I have found a quick look at Genesis 2-3 to be helpful in fleshing out this role.  In the Genesis account, God gave Adam and Eve commands about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  However, in the end, they gave into the temptation and ate of the forbidden fruit, causing them to grow ashamed of their appearance and hide from one another and from God.  God eventually comes down to the Garden to talk to the first family in Genesis 3:8-9: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man [Adam] and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”  In this passage, we see that sin had entered the first family.  Further context from Genesis 3:1-7 would even indicate that Eve was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit, yet when God showed up in the Garden, who did He call out to first?  Adam!  Adam was the representative leader of the first family, and as such God called Adam front and center to get a report on what had happened in His family.  Later on God certainly talked to Eve as well, but the order of events is not insignificant.  It reveals part of what it means for the husband to have headship in a marriage.  He has a representative leadership role for the family before God.  I serve as one of the lead pastors at Wildwood Community Church.  If something big happened to Wildwood and a local news station were to come to our church to ask questions, they would want to talk to me.  Why?  Because I am in a role that represents the Church body to the world.  In a similar way, husband’s headship in the family is seen as a representative leadership role.  God will call husband’s into His presence and want them to give an account for their families.  Some want to see the role of headship as placing husbands as superior to their wives.  This is NOT what the passage indicates.  The idea, instead, is that husbands are given a unique role to serve their families by acting as their representative head.  The world sees leaders as people who have privilege, the Scripture sees leaders as people who have responsibility . . . responsibility to serve those they lead.  As the head of the church, Jesus is the representative of all who have faith in Him, so that when God looks at us, He looks into the eyes of our Head, Jesus Christ. 
  10. In 5:24, wives are called to “submit in everything” to their husbands.  This is a high call.  What are some circumstances you can think of that might challenge this call to “submit in all things?”  What do you think Paul is implying by making this dramatic call to submission?
  11. Tom Constable in his notes on Ephesians has said that a good way to think about the topic of what it practically looks like to “submit” as a wife is to think of the word “structure.”  A wife is called to structure her life in such a way to support her husband.  If you are a wife, what would it look like to structure your life to support your husband?  What would you continue to do, stop doing, start doing, etc?
  12. NOTE: We will be continuing to add to this discussion of Ephesians 5:22-33 all week in this study.  No doubt you still have some questions, thoughts after working through the first few verses today.  Don’t worry!  Hopefully things will make more sense as we continue to soak in this passage together this week. 

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

 

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Packed #9 Sermon Audio/Video

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On Sunday, July 20, I preached a message at Wildwood Community Church based out of Ephesians 5:1-21.  This message was the ninth in the “Packed” sermon series.  Below you will see audio and video files of the sermon for listening or download.

 

To download the audio to listen to later, click on this link:

Packed #9

 

To listen to the audio online, use the media player below:

 

 

To watch the video of the sermon, view via Vimeo below:

 

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

 

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