Ephesians Study, Part 46: God's Design for the Family:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger"


Last week, having previously finished Paul's teaching about God's assignments in marriage, we heard from him about the assignment for the children:

We looked at how the disobedience of children, throughout the Bible, was a symptom of the decline of society.  We tend to regard rebellion and disobedience toward parents as a natural part of life, but God does not.

And we looked at how Paul tied this back to one of the Ten Commandments.

This whole idea of honoring father and mother is expressed here as being in the child's best interest.  It isn't just an onerous burden, but in fact, it was for their own good.

Today's Lesson: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger".

That leads us to Ephesians Chapter 6 verse 4, where we pick up today.

That is the obligation that we all have.  Unless you are a lot different from me, it is likely that one of your greatest disappointments, in a retrospective review of your life, is your failure to or lack of success in raising your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  If there was one thing that I could go back and change, I think this would be it.  God has blessed me in many ways.  I have been very fortunate in so many different ways, whether it was with my family, in my work or just life in general.  But one regret that I do have is that I allowed all of those things to interfere with raising our sons to be Christians.  That is one thing I wish I could do over and do better.  Of course I have made many mistakes, but one of my failures as a father was to be effective in raising our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, as Paul defines the assignment from God.

Fathers are given responsibility for the government of the home and yet most fathers dismiss it and leave it to the mothers or others because they're too busy.  Big mistake.  Men have that responsibility.  Children need a role model and a God fearing role model.

Paul says:

That means don't make unreasonable demands.  Don't be unduly harsh.  No constant nagging.

But this is not an excuse to fail to teach and train and correct.  Training includes discipline.  Lack of training and discipline results is disaster as well.

David pampered Absalom, and it resulted in tragic consequences: rape, incest, death.  Eli failed to discipline his sons, and it had tragic consequences.  They were killed in their youth.  As someone said, the father is required to apply the Board of Education to the seat of learning from time to time.  On several occasions Paul warns us against partiality toward children.  That goes all way back to the Torah, so it has been a principle from the early teaching from God.  By the way, the opposite of provoke is encourage

The Family's Responsibility:

While we're talking about encouraging and instructing, nowhere in the Bible is the training of children assigned to agencies outside the home.  How does that hit you?  This abrogation on the part of modern family is being capitalized on by those who do not have our best interest in mind.  Just as an aside, I don't know how many of you are aware of the actions by the United Nations to establish the rights of children against their parents as a worldwide set of rights.  Society is gradually eroding the authority of the parents over the children and gradually defining the children as a ward of the state.  This is not a figment of our imagination, or something out of a science-fiction novel, but in fact is how our courts and the United Nations are headed.  This is not how God designed it to be.

As long as I'm talking about the negative side of this question, let's talk about the positive side.  The question of who should be teaching the children, which biblically clearly is the responsibility of parents, leads one to recognize that home schooling is biblically supported.  The only time that Israel did not home school its children was when their captors physically prevented them from doing so.

What may shock you is the consistent out-performance of home-schooled students.  I assume many of you know that statistically home school students outperform public school students.  Home-schooled students statistically outperform public school students by close to 20%.  Just before the conclusion of the national spelling bee a couple of weeks ago I was listening to Larry Ahrens on KOB when he offered a wager for a donation to charity.  His wager was that the winner of the national spelling bee would be a home school student.  Several of the national winners in the last few years have been home school students, outperforming public school students in the national spelling bee.  It turned out that this year he lost his bet, but the runner-up was a home school student.
Larry Ahrens

There is an excellent book available on this topic entitled Home Schooling: The Right Choice: An Academic, Historical, Practical, and Legal Perspective, by Christopher Klicka.  If you question the concept of home schooling, I suggest you read this book.

The Master-Slave Relationship:

Now Paul is going to shift gears here in Chapter six.  The next few verses are the verses that if you are reading this chapter on your own you are likely to skim over and miss.  However they may be some of the most important verses in the entire chapter. The topic is the master-slave relationship.  When Paul speaks about masters and slaves it is natural to scan over that with the idea that that does not apply to our time or our culture.  When Paul was writing, probably over half all of the over 100 million people in the Roman Empire were slaves.  It was part a of their culture.

Let's discuss the concept of slavery.  The New Testament is surprisingly silent with regard to slavery.  It does not specifically condemn slavery.  But it is clear that slavery was common in that day.  Now frankly from a New Testament perspective, everyone of us in this room are slaves, hopefully.  If you understand your Scripture, each one of us as believers are to be, bond slaves.  We are to be bond slaves of the ultimate Master, Jesus.

This concept of a bond slave or a bond servant comes out of Scripture.  The Greek word translated as bond servant is doulos. A doulos was a slave, voluntary or involuntary, frequently referred to literally or figuratively in some qualified sense of subjection or subserviency)

It was conventional in those days that if you were seriously in debt, you would indenture yourself [voluntarily] in servitude to pay your debt.  But under Hebrew law the maximum time that you could indenture yourself was seven years, because every seventh year, debts were forgiven and you went free.  Many people found it necessary to resort to this form of payment in order to retire their debt.  It was sort of their form of bankruptcy, a way to start over without debt.  But when you and I think of slavery, we think in terms of abuse.

We often fail to realize that slavery actually had its positives.  It was guaranteed employment.  It provided food and shelter.  In fact in many cases by the time that these debt years had expired, the slave had the option and often took it to remain with the family for the rest of his life.  He could voluntarily, at the end out his indentured servitude, choose to become what was called a bond slave.  Ceremonially this was commemorated by taking the slave to the door post and piercing his ear to the door post with an awl, a tool like an ice pick.  That slave from that time on would wear a ring in his ear to signify that he was no longer in indentured servitude to that family, in the sense out working off a debt, but that he was then voluntarily committed for the rest of his life to serve the House.  Perhaps that sheds a different light on people today who go around with rings in their ears. At least there was once some pride and reason for doing so.  The idea of his being pierced to the door post was the idea that he was then attached to the House, to serve the House.  He was, in effect, pledged to loyally to the family.  So that ring in his ear was a badge of honor to society.

It is interesting that Paul speaks of himself as a doulos, a bond-slave of Jesus, or a bond-servant.  He is using that idiom as one who is pledged for the rest of his life to serve with complete loyalty.  Paul often spoke of himself as a bond-servant.

I think if Paul had business cards and were passing them out today it would say Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament says more to slaves then it does to Kings.  Queen Elizabeth made the statement that she was saved by the letter m.  In first Corinthians Chapter One, it says that not many mighty or noble will be chosen.

It does not say that not any noble will be chosen, it says not many noble will be chosen. So Queen Elizabeth said she was saved by the letter m.

With regard to slavery, Paul was very careful not to confuse the social system with the spiritual order of the church.  So we should keep an eye out for that.  There is a difference.  Paul did not confuse his kingdoms -- the civil kingdom and the spiritual kingdom.  Sometimes that's hard for us to remember, to keep them separate.  I could make the case that you and I are victims of a more pernicious form of slavery than the Roman empire was, because the worst kind of enslavement is the enslavement of the mind.  And it is terrifying to recognize how enslaved we are in our thinking and our information, and how managed it is both by our schools and by the media -- and by our government.

Verse 5 introduces this new topic of slavery.  Here is what Paul tells us.

It is easy to read over this and ignore it. We are not slaves, and slavery does not exist in our society.

Next week:

I want to show you that what Paul is teaching the new Christians in Asia Minor, and is teaching us today, is a big deal and is very meaningful.  To skim over it is to miss Paul's message.