By Will Hall, Baptist Message executive editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – In Chapter 5, Paul emphasized how we should “walk,” calling on the Ephesians to be “imitators of God” and to “walk in love … light … wisdom.” Meanwhile, he capped his discussion about righteous living by presenting how husbands and wives were to relate to each other, submitting in their respective ways to reflect the relationship of Christ with His Bride, the Church.
In this final chapter of his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul gave instructions about the parent-child relationship immediately after addressing the marriage relationship.
Furthermore, he constructed this part of his discussion, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for it is right” (v. 1), around the fifth mandate of the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and mother that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Exodus 20:12).
It is significant that Paul began his discussion about how to walk a new life, by warning the church at Ephesus not to grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), punctuating this thought by then calling for new believers to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1) before addressing the relationships in marriage and family (Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1- 4)
— especially in referencing the Ten Commandments here
— because this same order, God and family, is reflected in the same hierarchy of relationships expressed in the Ten Commandments. Many may view Exodus 20:3-17 as merely a list of “dos and don’ts.” But it offers much more meaning, and likely guided Paul’s discussion here.
The Ten Commandments provided a primer of sorts to the people of Israel, who, coming out of 400 years of being a people of Pharoah, needed to learn how to be a people of God – and He shaped His guidance to emphasize relationships!
— The first four of the commandments address a people’s relationship with God.
— The fifth lifted up the parent-child relationship, and so the marriage and family relationships.
— Meanwhile, the prohibitions against murder, adultery, theft, false witness and covetousness guide our relationships with everyone else.
It is not possible to know whether Paul learned this concept while under the tutelage of his mentor Gamaliel, or directly from Christ while in the church today. Some feel safe to drink alcohol, arguing that consumption is not condemned, only drunkenness (v. 18). Others read such warnings as “wine is a mocker” (Proverbs 20:1) and conclude all alcohol is a sin. Then there are prescriptions such as give strong drink to “the perishing” and wine to “the bitter (Proverbs 36:1), and Paul’s recommendation to Timothy “use a little wine” for a stomach condition and his “frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23).
Whatever position the Christian takes on this issue, it is critical that those who approve of drinking carefully consider that drunkards are among those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). Meanwhile, those who totally abstain from alcohol should consider that a man or woman who holds that drinking is “lawful” might also be careful “not to be brought under the power” of it (1 Corinthians 5:23). So, be cautious in judging others.
Paul followed his discussion about how to walk as believers by addressing how couples are to journey together as husband and wife. Importantly, he introduced this part of his counsel by declaring Christians are to submit to one another “in the fear of God” (v. 21). In other words, Paul framed his instruction regarding marriage in the perspective of obedience to the Father.
He told wives to submit to the husband “as to the Lord … in everything.” “As to the Lord” indicates she is not required to endure abuse from her husband or to participate in things that are unholy, illegal, immoral, unethical or unsafe. This point is reinforced by Peter’s encouragement that a wife’s “purity and reverence” might win over an unbelieving husband “without words” (1 Peter 3;1-2).
Meanwhile, Paul did not stop there. He did not just call for wives to submit to their husbands.
Indeed, one could argue that he placed an even higher standard on husbands to submit, calling them to imitate Christ who “gave Himself” for His Bride, the Church (v. 27). This refers to Christ’s suffering cruel torture by whip and an agonizing death on the cross. Additionally in verse 26 he introduced a priestly function — “washing” her by the water “of the Word” — suggesting the husband is to be the priest in the home.
Finally, Paul revealed that the model for the marriage relationship is not found in Adam and Eve, but in Christ and His Bride, the Church (vv. 32-33).
This is the fifth installment of a six-part series for the January Bible study
on the book of Ephesians.