Toward the end of the Great Depression in the 1930s, my father used to leave home about 3 a.m. and walk to the Lighthouse Beach near Pensacola. Then he boarded a boat, the Sparrow, for the short trip to a Spanish Fort. At the close of the work day, he reversed his course. I never heard him complain. A job, the work, was nothing less than a blessing from God as far as my parents were concerned. The beginning of World War II resulted in expansion of Naval Air Station Pensacola, which brought the need for skilled tradesmen. My father found work there as a carpenter.
The Bible advises the Ephesians to face life with fear and trembling (v. 5). The words were a favorite for Paul. He recounted his ministry to the problem-plagued Corinthian church, armed not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but with the goal of preaching “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (v. 2). He was with them in weakness “and in fear and much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). His tentative approach did not convey fear of reprisal or rejection by them but of humble assurance. He further resorted to the phrase as he penned those thrilling words about the self-humbling by Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11), but appeals to them to work out their own salvation “with fear and trembling” (v. 12). They can discern his assurance of their salvation in humble confidence.
In turning our attention to the slaves in the church at Ephesus, Paul was encouraging them to face life in the assurance of being fully accepted as co-laborers with their master-owners who accepted them as fellow workers.
The Bible next directs the slaves to observe spiritual protocol (v. 6). According to Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian of the New Testament era, the early churches had an influx of large numbers of slaves. They would probably respond enthusiastically to the teachings of Jesus who promised: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). But the presence of large numbers of slaves inevitably brought on special tension among the believers. Today, members in churches ministering to military personnel have to deal with the issue of possible conflict between enlisted personnel and officers. During the day while going about their work, a mechanic may be servicing an aircraft, while at a church meeting officers must put aside their rank and serve alongside the mechanic. In spite of these realities, the fellowship of the believers generally prevails, as when business owners serve with their employees.
In wrapping up this study, we note the spiritual chain of command (v. 9). This address to the masters is better understood by giving an overview of the purpose of this letter. It begins by analyzing the mystery of God in choosing to effect His will through the work of Christ (1:3-10), setting forth the nature of Christ’s work (1:11-12) and discussing the work of the Holy Spirit (1:13-14). It also sets forth the work of the Triune God (vv. 13-2:22). Especially important for our study are the benefits flowing from Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Exalted to the right hand of the Father, He now reigns above “all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (v. 21). According to some interpreters, these are descriptions of angels. On the other hand, three are classified as evil entities in 6:10. Regardless of that uncertainty, Christ is Lord of all (Rev, 1:21). We now turn our attention to the climax of our study, to the subjugation of all earthly rulers to the biblical admonition all of us are to obey. The Bible moves the thought to the spiritual battles being fought by the believers. They are admonished to gird up for a full-fledged battle against supernatural, spiritual entities (6:11-17). It is worthy of observing that, having girded up for battle, the Christian fighters should wage the war in prayer (v. 18). We can now more clearly comprehend the biblical scenario. Masters, military leaders, and business giants must bow before the sovereign God who directs human affairs, especially the churches, to bring about the historical event in which every knee shall bow and every mouth confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Phil. 2:10-11).
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