Ephesians 6: The Young are the Church Now
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In this passage we see Paul address the responsibilities, in the light of the gospel, of children and fathers. He has previously urged the Ephesian readers to “live as children of light” (5:8) and “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). The implications of these exhortations are explored in relational terms as Paul teaches wives and husbands, children and fathers, slaves and masters. While not a comprehensive picture, the overall impression is given that there is no relationship that we are involved in that the gospel does not touch.
Each relationship is presented in terms of reciprocal duties that express appropriate submission according to God’s instruction.
The instruction to children is simple: obey your parents. Paul follows this with some reasons for doing so: this is right according to the commands of God and it will bring benefits as a result.
Paul addresses children. It is easy to miss but Paul expects that children will be present when his letter is being read out and taught. The children have heard all the wonderful Christian truths Paul has expounded in the first half of the letter; all the marvellous things God has done for his people. He has blessed them with every blessing in Christ; he has chosen them; redeemed them; given them an inheritance and a hope; he has made known his plan; he has given them his Spirit (Ephesian 1:1-14).
Paul has also reminded them how they were dead in their sins and how God made them alive in Christ (2:1-10); he has reminded them how they are now part of God’s new church, united with one another (2:11-21), ministering to one another, helping each other (under the Spirit) to grow to maturity in Christ (4:1-16).
Paul expects them to think about how they will respond to God in their lives (4:17-6:20) and has a specific word for children.
In other words, Paul sees the children as very much a part of God’s church. They are not the church of the future; they are the church now. They will not be disciples of Jesus one day when they grow up; they are disciples now and need to be taught what that means.
Paul knows that young people matter to God now and therefore they matter to him.
Fathers are also instructed as to their responsibility, and parents in general do well to ponder these words: “do not provoke your children to anger” (6:4). Earlier in Ephesians, Paul has warned of the dangers of anger (4:26-27) and this provides some of the context for this instruction. Parents need to consider what unnecessarily provokes anger in children: things like excessive or overly harsh discipline, words that humiliate, inconsistent or unfair treatment.
On the contrary parents have the very positive role of instruction and training in the Lord. This is the patient instruction in the ways of the Lord, leading children to obedient allegiance to Jesus Christ. What a gift parents have for their children!
This is a wonderful passage that gives us much food for thought. It affirms the place of children in the family of God and gives guidance to the role of parents. How can we effectively express these truths in our families and churches?
Children obeying parents, parents cherishing, teaching their children the way of the Lord, not provoking them to anger…these are certainly clear ways to live as children of light in the midst of the darkness around us. Let’s pray for God’s grace to receive and apply his word in our own contexts.
The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Bill Salier, Principal, Youthworks College. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Iglesia Anglicana de Chile. In Valparaiso Diocese , the churches have been online only for a year. On Easter Sunday , there is an Easter service for the whole diocese. There are also 'local' online events: reading through Luke over three weeks, the last supper, Good Friday Bible readings. Pray that these events will enable church members to reflect and rejoice together and know the reality of fellowship , even in unique circumstances.
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