About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 3:18 - 4:1

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Rules For Christian Households (ch. 3:18 Ė 4:1)


As in Ephesians 5:22 to 33, where Paul goes into a little more detail, he addresses how Christian families should live.  There, and here, he tells wives to submit to their husbands.  The Greek word "hupotasso" is the word translated as "submit" in this passage.  It is a military word and means to "rank under".  This may not sound all that great to the modern wife, but this is what Paul is saying.  He is telling wives to rank under, or to fall in line under the leadership of their husbands.  Off the top of your head, you might not like the idea, but you canít change what Paul is saying to fit into our modern societyís way of thinking.


All that being said, we must understand how the Bible uses the Greek word "hupotasso".  Like many Greek words, the Bible often puts a different slant on their meaning, and hupotasso is one such word.  Without going into great detail, the Bible doesn't really interpret hopotasso in a harsh, dictatorial, military fashion.  The context of the word is used in the since that one submits to another out of a loving and respectful relationship with the one he or she is submitting to.  The Bible uses the word "hupotasso" in a much softer way than how it was used in Roman and Greek culture. 


The verb submit here is a present passive indicative Greek verb.  That means wives are to submit in present time.  Passive means that the wives fall under the authority of her husband.  He has authority over her.  Indicative means that this is not a suggestion but the way it is to be.         


Verse 19 gives the husbands their job and that is to love their wives.  Paul doesnít say it here, but in Ephesians 5:25 Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  Remember, Jesus gave His life for the church.  To the degree the husband loves his wife in a Biblical sense, will be the degree that a wife will find it easier to submit to her husband.  That being said, even if the husband is as loving as he can be, people, including wives are human.  A husband can love his wife and the wife may still not submit to him.


When Paul tells husbands "to love' their wives, the verb "love" is a present active indicative Greek verb.  This means that the husband must love his wife right now in the present moment.  He himself must do the loving and this is not a suggestion but a command.


In verse 19 Paul tells husbands not to be harsh towards their wives.  This is a logical command that make sense because as I've noted the Greek word "hupotasso" in its normal Greek military usage is a harsh word.  What Paul is saying here is that men should not expect their wives to submit to them as a general in an army expects a subordinate to submit to him.     


In verse 20 Paul tells the children to obey their parents.  Why?  It's because this pleases the Lord.  In our day when there are so many broken families, the notion that children should obey parents is becoming outdated.  For one reason, it's hard to obey father and mother when father and mother live in separate places and don't speak to one another and may well have different goals for their children. 


In 2 Timothy 3:2 we note that Paul predicts that in the last days children will become disobedient to their parents.  It's just a sign of the end.  


In verse 21 Paul goes on to say that fathers should not embitter their children.  In Ephesians 6:4 Paul tells fathers not to exasperate their children.  I like the word "exasperate". Too often fathers, and mothers too, exasperate their children by nagging over things that arenít worth nagging over.  If a parent is going to have a major conflict with their children, then have it over an important issue, not over issues that are unimportant.


Children can and do get discouraged and even depressed over too much heavy handed discipline as Paul says here.  


Note that Paul doesn't tell both father and mother not to exasperate their children.  It seems in Paul's mind that they disciplining was to be done by the father.  


In verse 22 Paul goes on to address slaves by telling them to obey their masters as if they are obeying the Lord Himself.  People often wonder why Paul did not speak out against slavery.  This is a big topic and I won't discuss it all here.  I've done so on my web site. 


If you read Paul's letters in light of the slavery issue you will note that if a slave has a chance to become free he should take it.  Masters, as we will see, should treat their slaves with great respect.  I would suggest that Paul did speak out against the poor use of slaves.  We should know that not all slaves in the empire were slaves as we knew it to be in the south of the United States in days past.  Many slaves in Paul's day were educated men, like lawyers. Another thing we should know is that the Roman Empire would immediately collapse if slavery was totally abolished because the patron slave relationship was foundational to the Roman economy.  Simply put. Paul believed in the fair and good treatment of slaves, who in many respects, were more like employees than slaves as we would think of slaves. 


In verse 23 Paul says "whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart."  In context this statement was directed towards slaves but it is an admonition that could easily be to all of us.  When we do anything; when we work hard; we put Jesus in a good light because we are His representatives. 


Verse 24 speaks of rewards that the believers receive from Jesus when they work hard for Jesus.  1 Corinthians 3 speaks about the believers works being burned on the day Jesus judges their works.  Works that are done by pure human effort and for selfish reasons will not be rewarded for.  Works done for Jesus from pure motives, out of love and respect for Jesus will indeed be rewarded for.    


In verse 25 Paul goes on to say that if you do wrong, you will be repaid by the Lord.  I think this is in reference to what I've just said.  You will lose a reward due to your wrong, either in this life or the next life.  Paul is talking to and about Christians here.  Clearly, Christians can do wrong.  


In chapter 4, verse 1, the NIV links this section with chapter 3.  Paul doesnít leave the issue of slavery without speaking to the masters.  He tells them to treat their slaves fairly and right, for they have a Master in Heaven.  I interpret this sentence to be speaking to Christian slave owners since Paul tells them that they have a Master in Heaven.  When treating a slave properly in the Lord, you might say that they are not slaves in the worldly sense of the word.  They become more of an employee that you look after with great respect.  They cannot be considered as private property. 


I believe I could say, as Paul told husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church in Ephesians 5:5, masters should love their slaves as Christ loved the church.  This puts a whole new outlook to Paul's view of slavery.  Slave owners are in fact slaves themselves.  How they are treated by Jesus is how they should treat their slaves.    


Actually, in New Testament Christian terms, slaves were considered part of a family household.  So in that sense, slaves were family.  

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