It’s a big passage today!
Paul starts off with two more calls to submission that demonstrate that we are filled with the Spirit.
Children to parents
Children are called to submit to parents in the Lord. “In the Lord” is the get out clause for not obeying them when it is sinful. Paul uses one of the ten commandments to back the command up – the first one with a promise. Having taught us we are not under the law, Paul knows that being Spirit filled means that we follow the Spirit and go beyond the law in our obedience.
The possibly harder command is how fathers are to live to make the child’s job of submitting easier.
Don’t exasperate them – provoking them to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord. This speaks of making sure your children know they are loved and have boundaries that keep them safe to grow up knowing the Lord.
Slaves to masters
One of the criticisms people have of Scripture is that it doesn’t explicitly condemn slavery. Old Testament Israelites were not allowed to enslave each other. An Israelite could only become a slave voluntarily. Foreign slaves could be purchased from foreign slave traders. However, anyone who kidnapped persons to enslave them faced the death penalty. A master who deliberately killed a slave was to be executed and a slave who had been permanently injured by their master was to be set free. Augustine couldn’t imagine a world without slavery, but saw it as an outworking of the wickedness of the fall. The church came to see that if Israel couldn’t enslave each other, then neither should Christians. Slavery began to die out until the discovery of the new world, when it re-emerged in a big way.
Paul’s writing, including today’s passage, set the seeds for slavery dying out in early antiquity and for the likes of Wilberforce to fight its entrenched re-emergence in early modernity. Perhaps Paul felt like Augustine – he couldn’t get rid of a system that was so endemic, but he could undermine it.
Slaves obey in your heart as well as outwardly – how often do we do things grudgingly when they are required of us. Spirit filled submission means serving with inward godly motivation as well as outward. Masters, bosses, need to treat their slaves/employees well, because God sees how they treat people. That pulls the rug out of keeping slaves – they are humans not possessions.
Our battle is often not physical and outward. Most of my difficulties are between my ears! Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote that Christians should stop listening to themselves and preach to themselves! I have literally just taken a break, gone for a walk in the sun, and given myself a good talking to and then prayed!
If our battle is between our ears and against dark spiritual forces, we need armour for protection. Paul used the Roman soldier’s armour as an illustration. Take it up and stand. Stand firm!
Belt of truth – airport security requires us to put our belts on the x-ray conveyor, so I make sure I wear well fitting jeans to avoid them falling down! Truth is fundamental to our defence and so the belt of truth holds everything else up – fill your mind with the truth of Scripture.
Breastplate of righteousness– You are already declared righteous, remember it and wear it.
Shoes of the gospel of peace – always be ready to share the gospel of peace with others.
Shield of faith – hold up the promises of God when doubt’s fiery darts come.
Helmet of salvation – protect your mind, take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ
Sword of the Spirit – read, meditate and learn Scripture. It’s a sharp sword for defence and offence.
Pray in tongues a lot!
Paul finishes the letter with praying peace, love, faith and grace over us all. Receive it!