Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
- Wives are to submit to their husbands.
- Wives are to submit to their husbands in a manner that is fitting in the Lord.
- Husbands are to love their wives.
- Husbands are not to be harsh with their wives.
- Children are to obey their parents in everything.
- Children obeying their parents are pleasing to the Lord.
- Father is not to provoke his children.
- If fathers provoke their children, their children may become discouraged.
- Bondservants are to obey their earthly masters in everything.
- Bondservants are to obey not just the letter of the command but the spirit of the commands as well.
- Bondservants are not to just give the appearance of obedience; they are to obey with a sincere heart.
- We are to work hard.
- We are to work hard because we are working for the Lord not men.
- We will receive our reward from the Lord.
- We are serving Christ.
- Those who do wrong will be paid back for what they did wrong.
- God does not show partiality.
- Master are to treat their bondservants justly and fairly
- Masters of bondservants have a Master in heaven.
Here Paul is contracting roles. This passage need to be understood in the context of the larger setting. In verse 11 Paul said, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” In Christ we are all the same. But this does not mean that we are playing the same roles. In the roles we play, wives and husbands, fathers and children, masters and servants, we are to treat each other with respect and love. We are to realize our ultimate service is to Christ.
This passage starts off with the relationship between a husband and wife. Wives are to submit to their husbands. This is not a popular teaching today. This sentence, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” It is simple and clear. There is no doubt what it says. But the modifier at the end of wives commanded to submit to their husbands is important, “as is fitting in the Lord.” In fact, this modifier can be applied throughout this passage. We are ultimately serving the Lord. We are only to submit and obey so long as it does not violate Gods commandments or will. Husbands are to love their wives and to not be harsh.
Because of the position Paul takes in this passage and similar passages in Ephesians 5:22-32 and the book of Philemon Paul, and therefore God by inference have come under criticism in our modern and post-modern age. First the idea that a wife should be subject to her husband is considered primitive. And the fact the Paul does not condemn the bondservant/master institution is seen as evidence of barbaric and immoral on the part of Paul. We what to believe everyone is of equal value. Paul does not deny that. Those who claim such he does deny the equality of all persons rip this passage out of context. Paul has just made the point that in Christ we are all equal. There is no Jew or Greek, There is no slave or free. (v11) Our purpose is to bring glory to Christ. Whatever we do, whatever role we are placed in, we are to bring glory to God. If we are placed in a role of leadership then we are to lead in a manner that brings glory to God. If we are in a role of servant we are to serve in a manner that brings glory to God. In the final analysis we are all servants. We are all servant of Christ.
The purpose of both the Christian and the church is to glorify God and follow his commandments. In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus summarized the commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Regardless where God, in his providence, has placed you, you are a new creature. You are different than the rest of the world. You have been raised with Christ and should seek the things that are above. (3:1)
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” (v23-24)