April 30, 2014.
Today we will complete our study on the book of Ephesians, focusing on the last half of chapter five and chapter six. If you have been following over the past few days, you will remember that the central theme of Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus is unity. Unity between Jew and Gentiles and further unity in Christ for all believers. Today we will see that after Paul takes about ultimate unity, he starts talking about the different roles we have with one another. Some might think that a discussion roles is not really in line with the discussion about unity. I would disagree. Unity does not mean we all do the same thing. In fact, Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians that we all must have different roles, else the body wouldn’t function. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
In every system, in every body, there is a system of roles and a hierarchy of authority. Any system would fail without this hierarchy. Now, what chain of authority does not imply is inferiority and superiority. Just because someone is in charge and has the final say does not make them a superior human being. It is simply their role. In fact, Paul would say that the members we find as inferior are actually more needed than those we would see as superior. I think many people in our society today get mad at Paul for setting up roles and authority, calling him a chavenist who doesn’t know what he is talking about. That is a dangerous position, as God has set up roles from the beginning. He set up three major roles in Genesis three, to be exact (I’ll leave you to explore that on your own).
That being said, on to what Paul actually talks about. In the latter portion of chapter five, Paul begins his discussion of roles with the husband/wife relationship. God has designed this relationship in a certain way, a way that is beautiful and reflects Christ’s relationship with the church. Just as the church is the bride of Christ, Christ being the head, so also is the husband the head of the wife. Does this mean he gets to be a tyrant, make all the decisions and his wife is basically his slave? Not at all. See, just as much as the husband is the head of the wife, he is commanded to love her as he loves himself. Christ laid down his life for the church. The husband is to be willing to do the same. The relationship is very intimate, both having part in making decisions with the man as the final say. That’s how any system works. There has to be a top authority, or not much will be accomplished. Christ is the head over all.
After setting this ground work, Paul discusses the roles of children, masters and slaves (or bondservants, not exactly what we think of as slavery today). He says pretty much what you would expect when learning who is in charge, but he instates an anicdote of love. Yes, there is authority. But love is a necessity. That’s why the husband can’t be a tyrant and why the master/servant relationship can still work out to be godly.
Then comes the armor of God! It is only fitting that Paul’s discussion of unity ends in the armor of God. Before an army can go out to war, they must be unified. One unity is achieved (such as through training/bootcamp), then the armor can be put on and the army can work like a well oiled machine. I love this passage, as it gives a metaphor for many of the aspects of our faith. Since my words cannot compare to the word of God, I will just let you read his words and not mine:
“Therefore 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. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying 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, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Finally, as our discussion of Ephesians comes to a close, I would like to end on one final thing that Paul says just before he talks about the armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For 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.
The ultimate statement of unity, as Paul reminds us who we are to be unified against. We are not fighting against our fellow man. We are trying to save our fellow man. We are fighting against the enemy, who walks around always seeking someone to devour. What better way towards unity than a common enemy? Let us band together and put our faith in The Lord.
Suggested Daily Reading: I Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 5-6.
Be strong in The Lord and in the strength of his might.