Build Strong Family and Work Relationships


Sunday School Lesson for May 19, 2002


Ephesians 6:1-9


Admonitions for Children (6:1-3)


The implications of Christ’s lordship are now discussed from the perspective of family relationships, specifically those between children and parents.  Here, Paul lays out the two primary God-given responsibilities of children (cf. Col. 3:20).







Admonitions for Parents (6:4)


Now Paul turns his attention to the parents and, more directly to the “fathers.”  While the head of the family is specifically addressed here, the wider application certainly includes the mother as well.  The profound and radical nature of Paul’s words are better understood against the background of the “callous cruelty which prevailed in the Roman Empire” (Stott, 238).  Stott continues by observing that


unwanted  babies were abandoned, weak and deformed ones killed, and even healthy children were regarded by many as a partial nuisance because they inhibited sexual promiscuity and complicated easy divorce (238).


As observed above, we may discern two principle responsibilities of the parents.




As noted above, this depiction of parental responsibilities stood in radical opposition to the prevailing sentiment of the day that regarded the father as having absolute control over his home and children.  The Roman father exercised the right to sell his children as slaves, abuse them, and even to execute them at will (see Stott, 245). Yet, the apostle teaches here that Christian parents will lovingly and patiently guide, teach, encourage, warn, and discipline their children as governed by Holy Scripture and their loyalty to Christ.





Admonitions for Slaves (6:5-8)


In this section, Paul turns to address those who are “slaves.”  His treatment of this segment of Roman society makes it apparent that such slaves were part of the Christian community. Some have estimated that the number of slaves in the Roman Empire during the time of Paul exceeded fifty million. This being the case, the relevance for specific commands touching the slave-master relationship becomes obvious. As for slaves, Paul enjoins them to “obey your earthly masters” (v. 5).  In the verses that follow he deals with both the how and the why of their obedience.




Admonitions for Masters (6:9)


Finally, Paul addresses those who are slave owners or “masters.” Basically, they are commanded to “treat your slaves in the same way.”  This implies that in the very manner slaves are to serve their own masters (vv. 5-9), the slave owners are to discharge their duties to the Lord “wholeheartedly” (v. 7) with the understanding that they too will give an account to God for their actions (v.8).  In other words, “they should make it easy for their slaves to work for them with goodwill.  Threatening with punishment, or harsh language and behavior in general, may ensure outward obedience, but hardly that obedience which comes ‘from the heart’” (Bruce, 401). Note that Paul specifically mentions that the slaves should not be threatened with mistreatment or other such sanctions.  Masters should realize that there is ultimately only one real “Master” who is “in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”  Once again we see that the Gospel must be applied to the slave-master relationship.