When You Blow It – Psalm 6

Psalm 6 is the first of what are known as the penitentials (32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143); these are Psalms of great lamentation over sin. This one is probably not as well-known as the others (32, esp. 51), but it communicates feelings I believe we can all identify with: the feeling of failing God. What do we do when we have failed God, sinned? This Psalm tells us there is hope when we bow it spiritually. Psalm 6 provides hope for when we’ve blown it morally. Two things to mention initially: 1) though the sin is not mentioned, the conscience is clearly stricken; and 2) though the sin is unnamed, the Lord knows what it is.

Psalm 6 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.

3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

4Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.

7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.

10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

When You’ve Blown It

A Lurking Sense of God’s Displeasure (1-3): The Psalmist speaks of “Your anger…Your wrath” (v.1). The wrath of God over sin is very real. Sin is no small matter, lightly overlooked. The true gravity of sin is seen in what it cost God to redeem us from sin: His unique Son, Jesus.

A Lost Sense of God’s Presence (4-5): “Turn” or “return” says come back. Why? Implication is the Psalmist feels as tho God has departed due to sin. But the return of YHWH will mean salvation & deliverance. So yes – come back! Don’t stay away forever! Restore me that I may praise you.

A Lacking Sense of God’s Peace (6-7): Notice the Psalmist is up all night, every night mourning his sin (every night I flood my bed with tears). Sleep eludes the conscience stricken person. Indeed, his whole being – mind, body, soul – is in distress. There is no rest, no peace, even if you are a king like David was. Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual & bodily fatigue – unable to get out of bed, too tired to go to work, too worn out to clean the house, maybe even too depressed to go to church, read the Bible, even pray? I know some have. Perhaps the only thing you can pray is v.3 – How long, O Lord?

A Longing for God’s Deliverance (8-10): How long until I am delivered from this? From my enemies (all you workers of evil), esp. the spiritual forces of darkness which are probably at the source of many of our troubles. You want it so desperately. You plead & pray for God to deliver.

What Do We Do When We’ve Sinned

Feel the Guilt (1-3): Godly grief produces repentance unto salvation (2 Cor 7.10). We ought to feel guilty when we sin. If we do not, we’re in trouble. Lack of guilt is indicative of a seared conscience. 1) The Psalmist feels the guilt & knows he deserves rebuke just “not in Your anger,” discipline but “not in Your wrath” (v.1). 2) The Psalmist is “languishing,” that is, he is withered like a plant or flower; lit. he is one who droops (v.2). 3) The Psalmist seems absolutely worn out by his grief; so weary in fact, that he can’t finish the sentence. “How long?” he asks without specifying for what. See Habakkuk 1.2; given v.9, this makes sense.

Pro Top Tip: When someone comes forward following a sermon I am very mindful to not minimize the action of one by lumping it in with the masses. Saying things like “We all have…” minimizes their repentance when instead, they need to feel the weight & gravity of this.

Pray to God (4-7): “Save me,” cries the Psalmist to God. Also, notice how often God is mentioned in these opening verses – my count is five (5) times in four (4) verses. He is the only and best hope we have for these dark nights of the soul: YHWH. He is the hope of the David & He is our hope as well. This is the turning point – when David, by habit, training, or sheer desperation, hurls himself to God and calls upon God.

Repent (8): Verse 8 is the turning-point of this Psalm. The grief & guilt should lead to true repentance. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” – this is the language of practical repentance. You sweep out the wicked, purge yourself of the impure so that you are holy unto the Lord. The change of mood continues into the next verses. Why? God has heard my prayer!

Know God Hears (9-10): Though you sin, you are still a child of God. Unless you up & leave home,  live in open, willful rebellion…that’s a different story. But when a child of God fails the Father, know you still have the Father’s ear. When Simon (the Magician), a child of God, fails the Father thinking to buy the miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit with money, what does Peter tell him to do? Acts 8.22, though he has sinned, he still has the Father’s ear. Back in Psalm 6, notice the three-fold assertion – “YHWH has heard…YHWHW has heard…YHWH has accepted…” this denotes absolute conviction. No doubt about it.

When Others Blow It

Be Gracious (2): Even as we desire for God to be gracious us so we ought to be people who show grace to one another. Remind them of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Pray with & for them.

Mourn (6-7): We should agonize over sin in our brothers & sisters. Especially if they persist in their sin. “Cemeteries are quiet places where damp earth covers dumb mouths” (Spurgeon). Now is the time to remember God.

Remember God’s There (8-10): God is not lost, those who rebel against Him & reject Him are. God was always there, even when we’ve blown it. He’s still there for our brothers & sisters who choose to walk away from the Father.

When you sin, you should feel guilty, but do not therefore feel lost. In the dark night of the soul, when we have failed to live up to the high, holy standard, call upon God. Request light. God is our light & pathway through the darkness.

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Kiss the Son – Psalm 2

Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry and wonder. Several of the Psalms are Messianic in significance. Psalm 2 is one such Psalm. Yet each Psalm had its own meaning when originally penned. This Psalm communicated to Israel that no matter how chaotic the world scene may be, their King is the Anointed of God. That David wrote this Psalm is unquestionable (Acts 4.25). Paul affirms this is the second Psalm (Acts 13.33). Author & location are established in NT.  This Psalm’s main emphasis is to highlight God’s sovereignty over man’s depravity. How is God sovereign over man’s depravity? Psalm 2 answers this.

Man’s Depravity (1-3)

1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

“Nations” are heathen nations, the Gentiles. “The peoples” are all mankind. They “rage” like the waves of the ocean. Why? B/c they are opposed to YHWH. It really is that simple. Since the beginning, man has rebelled against God’s way. Throughout history mankind has plotted in vain against God.

The Roman Empire plotted to vanquish Christianity from the earth…in vain.

19th century philosophers declared God is dead…in vain.

Militant Islam seeks to eliminate Christianity by killing the infidels…in vain.

Show me the burial place of Christianity. Show me where they buried God when He died. In fact, His tomb was found open, empty, with His grave clothes still there.

2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

Notice that man in rebellion 1) rages, 2) plots, 3) set themselves, 4) take counsel together, & 5) speak against God (YHWH) & His Anointed. “Anointed” in Hebrew is Messiah which translated into Greek became Christos from which we get Christ. Prophets (Isa 61.1), priests (Ex 30.30), and kings (1 Sam 16.13) were all anointed. So it is with Christ.

3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

In other words, “Let us be out own gods.” This has been the cry of man since Eden when Satan tempted Eve to “be like God, knowing good & evil” or “to play at God, defining good & evil.” The inclination of man’s fallen heart is to reject God’s rule, even hating His Christ. Man’s inclination is to play at God and we are surrounded by a society whose favorite pastime is to (re)define good & evil.

The Lord’s Derision (4-6)

What is God’s reaction to all the depravity & rejection from mankind?

4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

The Lord sits in heaven and His kingdom is over all (103.19) whether man likes it or not, whether man acknowledges it or not. In heaven, the Lord laughs. What’s so funny? God laughs these puny men to scorn and His scorn is for vengeance. He is a jealous God – jealous for His glory & the glory of His Anointed. So He mocks at man’s attempts to diminish Him or even erase Him, as though such a thing were possible. He ridicules man’s attempts to escape His cosmic sovereign rule.

5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

Some have attempted to eliminate the wrath of God from their Bibles. Nevertheless, it is a Bible subject. God’s holy wrath is kindled against sin, esp. the sin of self-deification (making self God), which is what the nations are about. Be assured: The love of God has averted His wrath away from us in Christ.

6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Consider what a mess this world is in and then remember what God says here. “God’s anointed is appointed & shall not be disappointed.” He rules from Zion regardless of how chaotic the world may be.

It’s as if God says to a rebellious mankind, “Ha! Rebel against me all you want. No matter what you do, what I’ve determined will come to pass will come to pass! Look! It’s as good as done. I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”

A man once met Horace Greely, the famous newspaper editor, on the street and said, “Mr. Greely, I have stopped your paper.” “Have you?” Mr. Greely said, “that’s too bad,” and went on his way. The next morning, Mr. Greely met the man again, and said, “I thought you had stopped the Tribune?” “So I did,” was the reply. “Then there must be some mistake,” said Mr. Greely, “for I just came from the office and the presses were running, the clerks were as busy as ever, the compositors were hard at work, and the business was going on as yesterday and the day before.” “Oh,” said the man, “I didn’t mean I had stopped the entire newspaper. I meant that I had stopped my copy of it because I didn’t like your editorials.”

In the same way, individuals who rebel against God are like the man who proudly announced to Horace Greely that he had stopped his newspaper. They think that if they reject God’s rule in their life that they will stop God’s rule in the earth. But that’s not so. Whether a person rebels against God’s rule in his life or submits to God’s rule in his life, God is going to do what He has declared. God has declared that one day, despite mankind’s rebellion; Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

YHWH’s Decree (7-9)

7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

This is the decree of YHWH; it is the purpose of God – for David and the kingdom of Israel (the antitype/shadow) and for Jesus & the eternal kingdom (the type/substance). Herein lay the gospel (Acts 13.33). Thru His resurrection, Jesus was declared, finally & fully, to be the Son of God.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

A common custom among ancient near east kings was to give those to whom they favored whatever they ask. Thus, YHWH is pictured as sovereign monarch even over David.

9You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Those who refuse to bend the knee the King will break with an iron rod. The words “break” & “dash” denote strong force even tho it is merely a “potter’s vessel” which is struck. Once more the frailty of man is juxtaposed with the supreme power of God. Let’s just say you do not want to be found opposing or rebelling against God!

Man’s Devotion (10-12)

Given the unalterable, eternal purposes of God, what should man do?

10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

If kings should take notice, how much more the subjects. God is supreme & the wise thing to do would be to take notice that God’s eternal purposes are fixed. It would be easier for a spider to move a mountain than for puny men to thwart God’s purposes or bring to nothing His Christ. Rather, men must “Serve YHWH…and rejoice…” Submission to & service in the kingdom is the wisest course men could take. Rejoicing under the rule of God is best. But all this is with “fear & trembling” (cf Phil 2.12-13) “Fear without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

“Kiss the Son,” i.e. pay homage to Him. Replace hatred with homage. In modern vernacular, “Don’t be hatin’.” Hatred toward God will only serve to ignite the wrath of God. “The way” spoken of is the way of rebellion; that way only leads to rebellion.

The 1st Psalm taught us the character of the righteous; the 2nd Psalm teaches us the character of the Righteous One. Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry & wonder – Where’s God? This Psalm answers: “Reigning in His heaven.”

This Psalm ends with a beatitude & can be translated “Blessed are all those who trust in Him.” Honor the Son by trusting in Him.

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The Two Ways – Psalm 1

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then too the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is the poetic idea of what Psalm 1 is depicting. Jesus likewise spoke of two gates, two ways, two trees & two types of fruit, two houses, & two foundations (cf Mt 7.13-27, esp. 13-14). What are the two ways before every person? Psalm 1 is actually the first full expression of this idea in the Bible. It is clear, concise, and yet carefully crafted…

The Godly (1-3)

The blessing of delighting in God & His Word.

1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Purity before God (1): Maintaining purity before God is contingent upon the way in which you walk. 1) The Wicked Way: Notice the progression – from walking to standing to sitting. There is even progression in the company – the wicked (or ungodly) are those who have no fear of God before their eyes and are perpetually restless in their self-will; the sinners are those who indulge in open sin; the scoffers are those who ridicule religion and laugh at those who fear God. Said another way, the wicked/ungodly are unconcerned with religion, even apathetic; sinners have a particular way of transgressing (i.e. drunkards, etc.); scoffers have brought an end to all religious & moral impulse in themselves (“he is a believer in all unbelief”). The progression goes from forgetting about God (“wicked”), to habitual violation of God’s commands (“sinners”), to becoming a professor & promoter of sin to others (“scoffers”).  2) The Righteous Way: The righteous person will avoid all this progression down the pathway of wickedness. Instead, a) He will walk in the council of YHWH; b) He will stand in the way of God; c) He will sit at the feet of the Almighty.

2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Pleasure in God’s Law (2a): He loves it! Consider also, just how little of God’s word David had when he wrote this: Pentateuch and a few Psalms. Today we have the complete written word of God; how much more should we prize this volume and think deeply on it!

Pondering on God’s Law (2b): He carries the law of God with him in his mind all day & all night; turning it over, ruminating, musing, thinking. He treats Scripture like hard candy, savoring it all day,, not a candy bar quickly devoured.

3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Picture (3): Not planted by chance or self; the righteous are “planted” by the Father, rooted in Christ (Col 2.7), by these flowing streams of living water (cf. Jn 7.38-39). He is the One who establishes us so we are fruit-bearing evergreens. “Prospers”: Adversity, yes, however, it is the best life there is.

Not long ago I was visiting with a member who had recently repented and rededicated himself to the Lord. He shared with me that “When I do things His way, life is good.” “How about that?” I replied. How about that indeed!

The Godless (4-6)

The fate of those who neither know God nor follow after His ways.

4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Worthless: Chaff was the dead, worthless stuff which came off the grain. So the wicked are like chaff, carried away. The contrast is sharp: the righteous are planted firmly by God whereas the wicked are blown away. By the way, these are the novices of evil (wicked), the first phase of spiritual degradation; if this is their fate, how much worse will it be for the sinners and scoffers.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Judgment: “The judgment” here seems to be the final judgment by God on the last day. Of course, no one will be standing because “every knee will bow” but here the inability to stand is connected to their guilt. Sinners will be cast out of the presence of the saints (i.e. heaven, though how much David knew about that is not known). And scoffers…are not mentioned, probably because if the wicked & sinners are not going to make it, there is no need to mention the scoffers.

Charles Spurgeon says, “Every church had one devil in it.” Weeds grow up with the wheat (cf Matt 13.24-30; 37-43). But there is coming a day when the “congregation of the righteous” will be purged, the weeds will be burned, but the wheat goes into the barn. May God grant that we find our place there!

6for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Known: “Knows” carries the idea of constant awareness. No one is going to game God who has marched down the way of the wicked nor will anyone be forgotten who has tread the way of the righteous. God is constantly watching over the way of the righteous; Yea, though we walk thru the shadow of death!

Application

Purity & Pleasure: Some may lay hold of the purity of verse 1 and avoid the path of the wicked, avoid sin. But do you delight in God’s word as verse 2 says? This beatitude (“Blessed,” v.1) is two-fold: purity & pleasure in pondering God’s word. Do you love God’s word? Do you seek to be alone with your Bible to read & study?

Meditate: Mentally chew the cud, like what a cow does. Get the sweetness & virtue out to nourish the soul & grow. This is hard candy, not a candy bar; it is a sucker, not a Snickers. Constant meditation upon God’s word has always characterized God’s people. It should characterize us today!

Fruit-Bearing Evergreens: In seasons of doubt we bear the fruit of faith; in seasons of worry, we bear the fruit of contentment; in seasons of trial, we bear the fruit of patience; in seasons of temptation, we bear the fruit of dependence on God. We bear fruit in its season!

Theme: This Psalm sets the tone for all the Psalms. The theme contained in this Psalm is found through the Psalms. No matter how bad it is, the righteous are known by God and the wicked perish. “Yeah, but it is really bad, Lord!” He says, “I got you!” God defends the Godly & destroys the godless.

The rest of the Psalms serve as exposition of this principle. But we have before us two portraits with the unspoken question looming: Which are we? Are we the righteous one which knows God, knows God’s law, and is known by God? Or are we the wicked, useless, with only impending destruction awaiting?

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Conclusion – Ephesians

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7.8). Paul closes this epistle with a final farewell of blessing and benediction (6.21-24). The general language and lack of personal greetings would indicate that this epistle was intended as a circular letter, the target audience being not just those in Ephesus, but Christians throughout the Cayster River valley (see Introduction).

Blessing (21-22)

Paul is sending Tychicus to these saints to bless them with encouragement.

21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.

So that…what I am doing:  Both concerning his physical situation (in chains in Rome) as well as his spiritual condition (personally as he preaches under house arrest and also how the church in Rome is doing). These brethren want to know & Paul wants them to know how he is. (cf. Col 4.8)

Tychicus…tell you everything: Tychicus was an Christian from Asia Minor who accompanied Paul (along with Trophimus) on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4).  He was probably a native of Ephesus or Colossae. He no doubt acted as courier of this epistle as well as Colossians & Philemon. Paul calls him a beloved brother and faithful minister (Gk diakonos) in the Lord (key phrase). This loveable and faithful brother would make known all that these Christians wanted to know about Paul.

Would Paul say about us what he says about Tychicus – that we are not only beloved brothers or sisters, but that we are faithful ministers? We need to love one another and also be loveable ourselves. Every Christian is a minister, a servant unto the Lord (not just the preacher). We need to be found faithful in our service to our God. Like Tychicus…

  1. We need to be devoted to the service of Christ
  2. We need to co-labor with our brothers in Christ
  3. We need a disposition which seeks to encourage brethren

22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

I have sent him…encourage your hearts: cf. Colossians 4.8. Paul purpose in sending Tychicus is the same as why he sent him to the Colossians: so that these Christians would know not just Paul’s well-being, but that of those with him (how we are) and that Tychicus might encourage or “comfort” (NASB) these brethren with how God has preserved Paul, even in chains.

Our lives are open books to one another. Paul was eager to share news of the wonder work of God in his life with these brethren knowing that this news would strengthen their hearts. Comforted, they themselves could pursue ministry bolstered in their faith.

We need more Tychicus’ today – those who heal the hearts of saints by the good word and encouragement they share. There are too many Christians who are sour faced curmudgeons, killjoys who believe their sole purpose is to point out how others are doing things “wrong,” and by wrong they mean they are not doing things the way they think it should be done. Tychicus was not a wet blanket saint, a Debbie Downer who only dragged people down. He called people up and built the brethren up. He sought opportunity to share a gracious word with God’s people. He told of the grace, love, and peace God brought to Paul and that imparted grace, love, and peace to His fellow brethren. Yes, we need more people like Tychicus in the church and fewer with Debbie Downer syndrome.

Benediction (23-24)

Paul offers a final prayer of peace, love, faith, and grace for these saints.

23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brothers: This was the usual and common form of salutation of the time, especially among the Jews (Heb. Shalom).

Love with faith: Love is the fruit of faith, both of love to God and love toward one another. Where peace exists among brothers, love can flourish, stimulated by faith.

From God…Jesus Christ: The Father is the source of all these virtues and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the mediator of our peace & love. Both are the objects of our faith.

As Paul has detailed (2.13-17), Christians have peace with God thanks to the blood of Christ and peace with one another due to the same means. Further, God shows us His faithful love by sending Christ into the world to die and into our lives to live. All these virtues come from God: we love because He first loved us; we know peace because He gives us peace; we have grace because He is gracious.

24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Grace…Jesus Christ: Whereas verse 23 is a specific benediction (“to the brothers” of the local church), here it is more general aimed at all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul seeks the grace which he has spoken so often of in this epistle to be with all Christ-loving Christians.

With [love] incorruptible: or “with undying love” (NET, NIV). Here is the kind of love every Christian should have toward Christ. This is a rare word used only a handful times in the New Testament and typically in association with the resurrection (Romans 2.7; 1 Corinthians 15.42; 2 timothy 1.10). Used here it speaks of the abiding, unfailing love for Christ that marks genuine Christians. It “is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew” (PC 261).

The riches of God’s grace is immeasurable (2.7). But if we have no love for the Lord, this grace eludes us. No wonder Paul says elsewhere “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16.22). When you are outside of the grace of God because your love for Christ has died there is only a curse! So it is no wonder Paul has prayed for these Christians to know the unknowable love of Christ (3.19); when we know His love then our love for Him can flourish and grow. There will be no decrease or decay in it.

Note: all four (4) of these virtues have been discussed throughout this epistle: Peace (1.2; 2.14, 15, 17; 4.3; 6.15), love (1.4, 15; 2.4; 3.176, 19; 4.2, 15, 16; 5.2, 25, 28, 33), faith (1.1, 15; 2.8; 3.12, 17; 4.5, 13; 6.16, 21), and grace (1.2, 6, 7; 2.5, 7, 8; 3.2, 7, 8; 4.7, 29).

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Grow for War Against Darkness

Since the beginning of recorded history, only 8% of that time has been peace time. In 3,100 yrs., only 286 have been warless and 8,000 treaties have been broken. What is intriguing to me is that in nearly 2,000 yrs. of church history, there has never been a single year where there has been peace between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. There’s a war going on in the spiritual realm and every Christian is in it.

As Paul prepares to close this epistle, he makes a final grand & sweeping declaration of war (Ephesians 6.10-20). Christians are engaged in a war as old as time as the forces of light wage war against the forces of darkness. Nevertheless, God has equipped with everything we need to wage war victoriously. The Christian has been endued by God with strength and armor for battle.

Forces Against the Godly (10-12)

The war Christians wage is spiritual in nature, against the forces of darkness & evil.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Finally: Having laid out the doctrines & duties of Christianity, Paul has one more admonition…

Be strong in the Lord: Lit. be strengthened by the Lord. Christians are empowered constantly by the Lord. The Lord does the strengthening; He makes us powerful. There is no other source which can provide the Christian with the strength he/she needs to live in this world. Cf. 3.16

In the strength of His might: This is God’s might and by faith it becomes ours. To be strengthened is our duty; to be weak is our sin. In a single verse, Paul uses three (3) different words for power. While each has a subtle distinction, the message is that God’s power enables Christians.

There’s a war going on and only the Lord can provide us with the help, the strength we need to be victorious. Depending upon our power, our own strength will have disastrous results.

11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Put on the whole armor of God: Put on as we would the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13.14), perhaps eluding to baptism (aorist). The whole armor (Gk panoplian) will be listed in detail (v.14-17) and every piece is vital. God is the One who supplies & provides the Christian with this armor.

That you…the devil: the schemes (Gk methodeias) or “wiles” of the devil are the various tricks the our great enemy will use to deceive us unto sin. Elsewhere Paul says we know his tricks (2 Cor 2.11) and here he says we stand against or face off on the battlefield of life with him.

Put on your armor because life is a battlefield (not soft with ease; hard conflict with foes within and without); put on your whole armor, you need every piece for protection. Why? Because we have a cunning, cleaver enemy, an artful adversary who wants to mount our heads above his mantle in the high halls of hell! He will use all his stratagem and tactics, every trick in his book to get us. But clothed in the armor of God, we can stand against his attempts.

12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

For…flesh and blood: “flesh and blood” (reverse order in Gk.) is a Hebraism for men or human beings. This denotes the weakness of men and points to the strength of these real, spiritual enemies. In antiquity, wrestling was a contest in which opponents tried to throw/hurl the other to the ground and victory came when one could hold the other down by the neck.

“Wrestle” is found nowhere else in the NT. This description of the Christian is unique. These spiritual forces of darkness have not gone away. These are the minions of Satan who assail the Christian, trying to pin us down to the ground by the throat. This is life and death. They want to take you down and choke you out! Cf. Matt 13.7, 22. These are still active and are a constant threat to the believer. Neutrality is not an option for the child of God.

But…the present darkness: cf. 1.21; 3.10. While some scholars attempt to make a distinction between each of these classes, New Testament usage does not lend itself to noting significant distinctions between these forces and powers. Only cosmic powers is new here. This was a title applied to pagan gods (Patzia 286) but here seems to be a special designation for the devil & special forces of his. Their power is limited to this present darkness, i.e. this world.

Against…heavenly places: The spiritual forces of evil is a comprehensive way of speaking of the Christians foes. While there is no place in the world where their influence is not found, our battle is waged in the heavenly places where we are seated with Christ (2.6).

Full Armor of God (13-20)

The Christian has access to the panoply of God as well as the ear of the Father in prayer.

13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Therefore: Since we have so great a host of foes who seek our destruction…

Take up…of God: In v.11, it was “put on;” now it is “pick up” the armor God provides. Neglecting the armor of God will leave us vulnerable and open to attack from the evil forces.

That you…to stand firm: Our active resistance to the spiritual forces of darkness (withstand) is dependent upon our wearing God’s armor. Concerning the evil day, “any day the evil one comes upon us in force is an evil day.” Having done all means having conquered or overcome.

Most commentators say that Paul’s mind was stimulated by his daily encounters with Roman soldiers to whom he was chained. Morris is typical: “Day by day the apostle, at this time of his confinement (see on v.20), was in all probability chained to a Roman soldier. His mind must often have turned from the thought of the soldier of Rome to the soldier of Jesus Christ, and from the soldier to whom he was bound to the heavenly warrior to whom his life was linked by more real, though invisible, bonds” (178). If that is the case, Paul used a contemporary figure to illustrate transcendent truths. I wonder what this would sound like if he used a modern-day figure…

  1. Belt:
  2. Breastplate: Put on the Kevlar vest of righteousness, bulletproof against the bullets of guilt, shame, and anger that sin shoots.
  3. Feet: put on the combat boots of the gospel of peace.
  4. Shield:
  5. Helmet: Take up enhanced high-strength polyethylene combat helmet of salvation.
  6. Sword: Pick up your M16A4 rifle which is the Word of God

14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Stand therefore: v. 11, 13 (2); four (4) times Paul exhorts Christians to stand victoriously. “Stand against” (v.11), “withstand” (v.13), “stand firm” (v.13), “stand” (v.14) are all related by the same root. Gk antihisthemi, Eng. antihistamine; a histamine is an amine (C5H9N3) which is released from mast cells as part of an allergic reaction in humans. It stimulates gastric secretion, causes dilation of capillaries, constriction of bronchial smooth muscle, and decreased blood pressure. An antihistamine blocks these reactions. Paul pictures the devil as an allergen the Christian resists, stands against when in the armor of God.

Having…belt of truth: The belt which was tied around the waist would be the 1st item a soldier would put on. So truth (i.e. sincerity, integrity) even in “the inward parts” (Psa 51.6) is essential.

Having…breastplate of righteousness: cf. Isa 59.17. The breastplate protected the heart of the warrior. So the righteousness (i.e. right standing and actions) of God protects our heart from the guilt sin brings. The Christian is to belt and clothe himself in truth & righteousness (middle voice).

What stands out in the description of the armor is the tenses – all of them are aorist tense. These are definite actions which enable our standing (also aorist tense). We belt, clothe, and shoe ourselves with truth, righteousness, and the gospel.

15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

And, as shoes for your feet: “The Roman sandal was furnished with nails that gripped the ground firmly, even when it was sloping or slippery” (PC 259). Without shoes a soldier could not gain traction for the fight and stand against his foe.

Having put on the readiness: or “preparation” (NASB, NKJV). Readiness could mean the Christian soldier is prepared to march forward with the gospel. However, the context (“stand”) indicates that what is in view is firm footing for the conflict so the Christian is unmoved by the enemy.

Given by the gospel of peace: Even in the midst of war the Christian has peace in heart & life due to the gospel.

Ready in mind and willing to share the gospel with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Perhaps Paul has Isaiah 52.7 in mind when he writes these words. The message the Christian brings into this “holy war” is one of peace with and from God. Peace for those who are far off and near (2.17).

16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

In all…shield of faith: In all circumstances or “above all.” The shield the Romans carried was 4 ft X 2½ ft, and was designed to protect the combatant fully. Faith (in God, Christ) is that shield which round about encompasses the Christian (Psalm 5.12).

With which…the evil one: Though Satan hurl the whole hoard of hell as flaming darts (common practice of antiquity in battle), by faith we extinguish them.

The metaphor here is one where thoughts or ideas “dart” into the mind which inflame lust, pride, anger, revenge, even guilt & shame or any other evil feelings. Should a fire-tipped dart hit the Christian, the danger is the flame spreads and consumes him. Eph 4.27. The painful experience of every Christian is when these kinds of thoughts and ideas suddenly enter our mind despite our efforts to keep them. In moments like these we are no doubt thankful for the shield of faith to quench those darts. By consciously focusing on the abiding presence of Christ, by remembering His love & sacrifice, by resting upon His grace, by recalling the promises found in Scripture, we can extinguish those fiery darts.

17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Take the helmet of salvation: Take may imply that these items are handed to the soldier after he has dressed for battle. The helmet protected the head of the Roman soldier. So salvation protects the mind of the Christian. Knowing God’s salvation is a blessing which guards the mind.

“Take” is what is called a middle voice verb which means the subject (in this case “you,” i.e. the Ephesians) is participating in the action directly or indirectly and yet the action is also upon the subject. So what that means is that the Ephesians receive or take hold what is being given to them by God. God gives the helmet/salvation and the sword/word; the Christian accepts them, receives them, takes hold of them.

The sword of the Spirit: The Roman had two different swords. The sword (Gk machairan) spoken of here was the short sword or dagger which was used in close combat. It is the same kind of sword Peter used in Gethsemane (Matthew 26.51-52). This is the only offensive weapon mentioned.

Don’t let anyone tell you the Spirit is the Word; the Spirit is God, the sword we yield is the word which is supplied by the Spirit. The Spirit inspired the Word (Bible) and when you put the sword in the Spirit’s hand (fill yourself up with God’s word and allow the indwelling Spirit to work), powerful things will happen in your life.

Which is the word of God: The word (Gk rhêma) is a single unit in a discourse (i.e. a quote) or a spoken word or saying.

Connect this spoken “word” with what Jesus does in Matthew 4: when tempted He said, “It is written…” and then shared a quote from Deuteronomy 6 or 8. They are just brief quotations but sufficient for the occasion. Here Jesus is showing us how to wield the dagger of the Spirit. See we sometimes make the mistake that what is needful is to memorize huge chunks of Scripture; what is sufficient and all that you need is a short saying. We need not think on the big scale when memorizing Scripture; if you can great! But we do need the dagger, the short saying and it is enough. Jesus shows us that.

18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Praying…in [the] Spirit: There is debate about whether prayer is the final piece of armor. Grammatically, it is not or else keep alert would have to be also. However, properly using the armor in glorious battle requires a disposition of prayer at all times. In [the] Spirit speaks to the Spirit’s role as our helper in prayer (cf. Romans 8.26).

True prayer is spiritual (see Rom 8.15, 26; Jude 20). The Spirit is in us (1 Cor 3.16; 6.19, Eph 3.16: Acts 2.38) and He helps us. “The ordinary habit of the soul should be prayerful, realizing the presence of God and looking for his grace and guidance.”

With all prayer and supplication: Paul uses two different words for prayer (Gk proseuchês & deêseos). While each has it subtle meaning, Paul intends merely to emphasize prayer.

To that end…perseverance: Keep alert is a metaphor from staying awake & not falling asleep. The idea is a Christian is to make an effort to watch for potential threats. Coupled with perseverance the idea of intense constancy comes to the forefront.

Making supplication for all the saints: i.e. for all Christians. Christians ought to be mindful of the needs of other Christians and be constant in seeking God’s grace for them.

Prayer must be unceasing (“at all times”), intense (“keep alert with all perseverance”), and universal (“all the saints”). We cannot spend our entire lives in quiet with God, but we can & should live in continual communion with God through prayer.

Pray for all Christians. We should do this: (1) because they are our brethren – though they may have a different skin, language, or name. (2) because, like us, they have hearts prone to evil, and need, with us, the grace of God. (3) because nothing tends so much to make us love others and to forget their faults, as to pray for them. (4) because the condition of the church is always such that it greatly needs the grace of God. Many Christians have backslidden; many are cold or lukewarm; many are in error; many are conformed to the world; and we should pray that they may become more holy and may devote themselves more to God. (5) because each day many a Christian is subjected to some special temptation or trial, and though he may be unknown to us, yet our prayers may benefit him. (6) because each day and each night many Christians die. We may reflect each night as we lie down to rest, that while we sleep, some Christians are kept awake by the prospect of death, and are now passing through the dark valley; and each morning we may reflect that “today” some Christian will die, and we should remember them before God. (7) because we shall soon die, and it will be a comfort to us if we can remember then that we have often prayed for dying saints, and if we may feel that they are praying for us.

19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

And also for me: The great apostle who was in constant prayer for the saints asks for their prays.

That words…the gospel: Of all the things Paul could request prayers for he seeks prayers for boldness in speaking the gospel to others. Paul employs a rabbinic phrase (Lit. in the opening of my mouth) to describe the gravity of his ministry. Due to his sober calling, Paul desired for God to give him words (Gk logos) in order to proclaim or “make known” (NKJV, NIV) the mystery of the gospel, i.e. Jews & Gentiles in one body reconciled to God (cf. 3.4-6).

Throughout this epistle, Paul’s emphasis on prayer has been instructive. Once again Paul realigns the prayer lives of the saints by seeking not freedom from prison or good health or safe travel or for the guards to be nice to him; he prays for boldness in speaking the gospel! When is the last time you heard someone pray that God would give us the words we need in order to speak the gospel with boldness?

20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

For which I…in chains: It was because of his preaching “the mystery of the gospel” that Paul was not in chains, i.e. in prison (3.1; 4.1). But even in prison he was an ambassador or a representative of a dignitary or ruling authority, in this case the King of kings. Some see a play on the idea of ambassadors who, during festive occasions, wore ornamental chains as a mark of prestige.

That I may…speak: Paul’s chief concern was not that his chains be loosed but that his tongue be loosed for the sake of the gospel. He seeks to take unto himself the confidence and freedom to speak that only God can give. He knows how he ought to speak and so the double request for boldness.

Do you know how you ought to speak? Paul tells us it should be confidence. Do you speak this way with folks about the gospel? If not, have you prayed for boldness? Herein lies another key to praying in the Spirit: it involves engaging God and going beyond our immediate concerns (i.e. prison). Also, we should note the use of plural nouns and verbs. In other words, prayer must be a church-wide emphasis – we pray for one another but also we get together regularly and often to pray about BIG things like our mutual need for boldness in evangelism. Remember the other things (health, travel, etc.), but keep the main thing the main thing.

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Grow in the Word of God, part 3

Slavery was an established institution when Paul penned the words of Ephesians 6.5-9. It had been in existence for millennia. God’s people were slaves in Egypt for centuries. There were provisions in the Law (Exodus 21) designed to protect the slave and prevent abuse. Under the Law, a slave only served seven (7) years and then was released by his master with plenty of goods from his master’s house (Deuteronomy 15.12-15)…unless the slave loved his master, in which he could stay and be a slave forever (Deuteronomy 15.16-17). Undergirding these laws was the reminder that Israel had been a slave in Egypt (verse 15). Surely, there was abuse, but to do so a Jew would have to trample underfoot the Law.

In the rest of the unenlightened world, the cruelty and depravity of the sinful heart of man was normally displayed in the slave-master relationship. True, there were pockets of light where slaves were treated well and special bonds formed (Pliny lamented when slaves he loved died), but the norm seems to have harsh & horrible treatment of slaves: runaway slaves were branded with an “F” on the head for fugitivus; slaves were crucified or fed to beasts for minor offenses; slaves were killed when an owner lost his/her temper; old slaves were discarded to the rubbish heap to starve to death; female slaves had their hair torn out and skin ripped from their faces by their mistresses’ nails. A slave was not a person but property (versus under the Law, the Hebrew slave is called “your brother”). Under Roman law, “Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice, and law” (Barclay 213-214). The Roman world was full of slaves. Estimates ventured tell us that somewhere in the neighbor of one-third to one-half of the Roman population was enslaved to the other portion of the empire.

Into the chaos of injustice and abuse, God speaks a word of order. He does not call for rebellion; He calls for respect. God does not call for a revolution; He calls for reverence. Slaves are not to be subversive, but submissive. The instruction herein contained, while not a direct parallel, is useful for those on the job and in the workplace. In other words, verse 5-9 impact how Christians behave 9-5.

God’s Word to Workers (6.5-9)

Slaves and masters have mutual obligations to one another in order to grow in the Lord.

5Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

[Slaves]: These are household slaves; Paul is still dealing with relationships in the family. Further, Paul is addressing Christians slaves, hence, the heavy emphasis on Christ throughout this section.

Obey…trembling: Obey is the same word used for children to their parents (v.1). Earthly masters stands juxtaposed with the heavenly Master (i.e. Christ). Fear (Gk phobos) and trembling is not terror & dread but rather respect & reverence, eager to fulfill one’s duty. These are regularly connected with obedience in the New Testament (cf. 2 Corinthians 7.15; Philippians 2.12).

With a sincere heart: As opposed to duplicity & double-mindedness which would accompany one who was only seeking to please man (v.6). This is the same kind of devotion which accompanies obedience to Christ; His slaves serve from a single or united heart (cf. Psalm 86.11).

As you would Christ: Of course a Christian slave would obey Christ with a sincere heart and respect & reverence. Render this same kind of obedience to your earthly master as though he were the Lord.

The temptation for 21st century American Christians is to read Paul’s words through the lens of our own dark history of slavery. This would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. First, the slavery of the 19th century in America is a different animal from the slavery of antiquity. The largest difference was the slavery of antiquity did not discriminate based upon race, sex, or other qualifiers. Second, and more important, Paul’s concern is not the slavery institution (right, wrong, or otherwise), but how one behaves when in that relationship. Paul neither condemns not condones slavery; he explains how Christian slaves & Christian masters are to relate to one another in Christ. His emphasis is ethics among believers who were in the institution. There is no diatribe bemoaning the evils of slavery. Neither is there a treatise on the benefits of slavery.

6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

Not…as people-pleasers: In his typical style, Paul presents the negative first followed by the positive. Christian slaves must never be the kind of slave who render their service only for the eye.

But as [slaves] of Christ: Every Christian is a slave of Christ. This is a principle which runs throughout the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7.22; Philippians 1.1; James 1.1; Jude 1).

Doing the will of God from the heart: Christians are first & foremost God-pleasers. God is pleased when we do His will from the heart (Gk psuches, lit. soul).

A slave’s obedience was Christocentric – every verse, every exhortation to the slave was focused on Christ: “as you would Christ” (v.5), “as servants of Christ” (v.6), “as to the Lord” (v.7), “back from the Lord” (v.8). So for the Christian employee, our work must be consecrated unto the Lord. “For a Christian, there is no distinction between secular and sacred” (Patzia 281). “The Bible allows no distinction between sacred and secular” (Foulkes174). Everything we do matters to Christ. We are His slaves. He is the recipient of every act we perform. Everything we do on the job, regardless of what your job may be, is ultimately done for Him. Ephesians 6.5-9 tells us how to live 9-5. All our work take on new meaning; how we treat people on the job is affected. Whether we cut grass, clean pools, fix cars, educate children, administrate educators – whatever our job or career, Christ is the Boss and so everything and everyone is important. “What we do and how we do it matters because all life is live in, to, and for the Lord” (Snodgrass 333).

We are slaves 24/7, 365. If we are not, we are not in Him and therefore alienated from God.

7rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,

Rendering…not to men: This is a complete transformation of the Christian’s standard for work & service. The Christian slaves works with a good will or zealous desire to be of benefit to their Master. Everything we do on the job should be done as though we would present it to the Lord.

Herein lies the great principle for all working Christians: You work for the Lord. “The conviction of the Christian workman is that every single piece of work he produces must be good enough to show God” (Barclay 215). Jesus is Boss over every boss you happen to be employed by throughout your life. By faith we we see beyond this transient life, beyond our fleshly master to our heavenly Master and realize that whatever service I render, I render it unto the Lord.

8knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Knowing…anyone does: Lit. “having come to knowthrough Christian instruction. Whatever good (or bad) pertains to our ethics. Whatever good we render on the job…

This he…from the Lord: The Lord rewards His people for faithfulness, especially when the circumstances are difficult and “unjust” (1 Peter 2.18). So slaves could find encouragement from the apostle’s words that 1) they are the Lord’s & 2) He rewards their good works.

Whether he is a [slave] or is free: But this principle is not merely for a slave; the freeman must take note also that God is a Rewarder of those who pursue faithful service.

Think about this: what you do on the job has an impact upon your eternal destiny. I don’t know that a lot of Christians grasp this. Or if they grasp it, they only grasp it in part – like they know they shouldn’t have a job which would be in violation of God’s word (like a stripper or drug dealer). I am persuaded that this thing climbs into our lap and eats our lunch. How can we be salt & light on the job when our language is salty and our heart is so full of darkness? “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” and if you have heart full of darkness it will come out in what you say 9-5. What do you with anger on the job? How do you handle it? Do you cuss out an employee or slander your boss behind his back (“Why that good for nothing so-and-so!”). Philippians 4.8, “think on these things.” Why? Because God repays for the good we do on the job.

9Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

[And] Masters: And joins masters and slaves. Masters are Christian slave owners.

Do the same to them: i.e. do “whatever good” you can do to your slaves.

Stop your threatening: One common practice to control slaves was through threats—punishment, sale, beatings, even death. But a master who came to know Christ their Master had to abandon that and change their attitudes and actions toward their slaves.

Knowing…in heaven: Lit “having come to know” again through Christian doctrine. These masters came to know the Master…in heaven.  Further, they knew that He is Master of all—both slave and free. In fact, these masters are the Master’s slaves (see 1 Corinthians 7.22).

There is no partiality with Him: The Master will be merciless to a merciless master. Conversely, to a merciful master the Master will be merciful. In other words, His judgment is just.

Husband, father, & master are all the same person. Since Paul is dealing with “house rules” and how each member conducts him/herself in the household, the head of the house – husband, father, master – is addressed in each of these discussions. If you get the head of the house, you get the house. God knows this which is why He addresses the man of the house three (3) times.

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Grow in the Word of God, part 2

The integrity of a society begins with the integrity in the home and the home is the first & best place for children to learn faith and obedience. The collapse of a nation (any nation) is directly related to the home. When the family is decayed, the nation rots. The only remedy is a wholesale return to the godly principles contained in the Bible. Parents must 1st themselves be given over to the way of God and then in turn they instruct their children in obedience. Therefore, Paul continues his exhortation to the family, and in this section (6.1-4) focuses on the children’s responsibility toward their parents.

 God’s Word to Children (6.1-4)

As children grow they are to be obedient to their parents, especially their fathers.

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Children: This epistle is addressed to “saints” (1.1), not exactly preschoolers and young children. Obedience and honor certainly begins in childhood, but it continues into adulthood.

Obey…the Lord: Obey is stronger than submit (v.21, 22). Submission is voluntary; obedience is mandatory. In the Lord (key phrase in Ephesians) “means to obey as part of one’s relation to the Lord” (Snodgrass 321).

The Scriptures paint a bleak picture of those who are disobedient to parents (Prov 30.11, 17). Disobedience to parents is characteristic of those who are depraved and reprobate whom God has given over to a debased mind (Rom 1.29, 30). It is also a signal that we are indeed living in the last days (2 Tim 3.1-2). At its heart, disobedience is spiritual rebellion since obedience to parents is part of our relationship with the Lord.

For this is right: Even the law of nature teaches we obey those who gave us life; the Romans understood the power of the father (patria potestas) in his home. Common sense dictates that parental obedience is right. The Law of God sanctioned & sanctified obedience (5th commandment). Now Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, baptizes the command and so enjoins it upon the church of Christ.

2“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),

“Honor…mother”: Honor means to revere, respect, and value upon the parents. Parents (v.1) is here defined as a father and mother, which would exclude other unlawful arrangements (i.e. Heather has Two Mommies).

Obedience may look different for a 20 year old than a 5 year old, but honor remains relatively unchanged. We should always respect our parents, regardless of what age we be. But a 5 yr olds obedience (maybe – eat your vegetables) looks different than a 20 yr olds obedience (say – stay away from alcohol). Honoring God is the theological principle undergirding the principle to honor and obey parents.

This is…a promise: Some have noted that the 2nd commandment (no idols) has a promise in it (Exodus 20.4-6). However, a close reading of the text shows that the Lord is describing His nature in the 2nd commandment, whereas the 5th commandment has a specific, personal promise (“you”).

3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

“That it may go well with you”: The promise is that things will go better for you if you obey your parents. You’ll be more useful, healthy, happy than if you did not obey mom & dad.

“That you…in the land”: or “on the earth.”  Though originally “the land” is the Promised Land, here it is meant generally for the earth. The second aspect of the promise is longevity. Those who listen to their parents, doing what they say will live a long time.

Some point out the problem with the promise – some children, even those who are very obedient, die. Granted, there are the cases where lives are cut short due to willful rebellion and refusal to heed the voice of parental wisdom. But some kids’ lives are short without that willful rebellion. They don’t “live long on the earth” even though they may have been very obedient. What then? The problem is further compounded when we consider that some little hellion grows up into adulthood, perhaps to continue his profligate lifestyle. “Why do the wicked prosper, Lord?”

  • Reminder: when a child dies, we believe that they go to be with the Lord. Sin does not come alive until they come to know the Law and disobey it. So when a young child does die, we have the blessed assurance that they are “safe in the arms of Jesus.” Do not doubt in the dark what you knew in the light.
  • Though we can point to specific cases, this promise, when applied generally, tends towards the results specified. Where you find parental obedience, you will typically find longevity and habits which promote that.
  • Another reminder: God is sovereign. In the end, He owes us no explanation for the whys and wherefores of life (and death). Though we only have partial answers in this life, the promise still stands.

4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Fathers: Some point out that the word used here (Gk pateres) is used of both parents (see Hebrews 11.23). However, Paul has just used the word for “parents” in v.1. It seems like the shift is intentional: primary responsibility to lead the home and primary accountability unto the Lord for the home is placed squarely upon men.

Do not…anger: Paul tells Christian fathers not to make their children mad or irritated. Coupled with Colossians 3.21 this comes into sharp focus: don’t lead your children down a path of frustration which culminates in their being discouraged in the faith.

But bring…the Lord: Provide for their physical & psychological needs, yes. But most important, give them what they need spiritually. Discipline relates to cultivating the mind and morals complete with commands and correction when necessary. Instruction could be either correction (for misdeeds) or confirmation (for good works).

First the wives, then the husbands. First the children, then the fathers. The dependent first followed by those upon whom they are dependent. Here Paul states the negative before giving the positive. This is Paul’s typical style.  First, don’t provoke them to anger: That is, although there is a proper and necessary place for discipline, that discipline must nevertheless “never be arbitrary (for children have a built-in sense of justice) or unkind. Otherwise, they will ‘become discouraged.’ Conversely, almost nothing causes a child’s personality to blossom and gifts to develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents.”[1] Second, bring them up in God’s instruction: How are fathers to do this unless they know what the Word of God teaches? How are they to teach with wisdom unless they have themselves learned in Christ’s school? Obviously fathers will fail at this great task unless they are themselves growing with God. They must be studying the Bible. They must be seeking to live by it and practice it in their own daily lives. Parents (and especially fathers) must be models. [2]

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988). 214.

[2] Ibid 215.

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