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Walking in Love

Published: 1 month ago- 3 March 2024
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SERMON MANUSCRIPT

Big Idea: What it looks like to be a gospel-shaped community.

Housekeeping tip for followers of Jesus. If you want a weekly motivator for a quick tidy-up of the living room host a Growth Group. The weekly Bible study speed clean (know that one?). You are motivated to have this weekly speed clean. Because you want to give a good impression.

In our passage today Paul says your household needs to give a good impression, a good gospel impression. Paul uses the household to show how followers of Jesus are called to live gospel-shaped lives.

How can the way I relate to those who are close to me communicate the good news of the gospel?

Paul begins with the overarching Gospel principle. Read v21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Lots of confusion. Take a look at the context.

Read 5:1-2

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Submit – as Christ submitted to the Father (so NOT demeaning) for the good of his people. So, we give up self-centredness and adopt humility toward one another. We treat each other with love, and we serve each other as we recognise that we are all image bearers of God.

That’s the way we honour Christ. Read v21.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

That’s the gospel principle that Paul will now expand as he takes a peek through the window of a first century Greco-Roman household who honour Jesus.

Before we enter this house, we need to know.

  • Different culture to ours – confronting or confusing.
  • Speaking into an ideal – a gospel household.
  • Using some aspects of home life to communicate gospel truth to all believers – not just married couples with kids and slaves.

The message that Paul is communicating and that he wants us as followers of Jesus to live out is that the gospel brings dignity and freedom and hope. And our lives should communicate that truth (dignity and freedom and hope). The gospel really is good news, for today and for eternity.

Gospel Dignity … The world Paul is speaking into was a man’s world. Today people in the west talk about Pale, Stale and Male. But in Paul’s day these guys were the ultimate household authority. They probably weren’t pale!!!

Man decided if their newly born babies got to live or not. Man had complete call on children – punish, sell, kill. Man had complete control of slaves – buy, sell, punish, kill.

Wives, children, slaves – no voice, no standing, no dignity. But take a look at

5:22, 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

6:1, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

6:5 5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,.

These are the ones Paul is addressing. Dignity. Wives submit, children obey, slaves obey. You make that decision as those under Christ who are seeking to honour him.

Ephesians is a letter to church families around Asia Minor. Paul is expecting that wives, children and slaves are a part of the Christian community. They are gathered as part of the church family listening to Paul’s letter being read out. Being addressed as responsible members of the church with a call to live gospel lives. They may have had different stations in life, they may have been ignored or looked down on, even abused by their society, but that is not the measure of your dignity in the gospel.

We are not all the same. I enjoy the occasional holiday Jigsaw puzzle. Every piece is important. But not the same. In fact, the difference provides the joy.

We are not the same. We are different. However, we display the sufficiency of the gospel as we live out that difference. We are all called to live gospel-shaped lives in whatever position we find ourselves in. We fit together to present a picture of the gospel.

Again, that is seen in Paul addressing husbands, fathers and masters: 5:25, 6:4, 9.

Paul is not seeking an uprising against the system. Not preaching DOWN with the Patriarchy. He is not diminishing the place or role of authority.

In fact, he shows how the gospel brings great dignity to authority. Husbands love your wives (5:25). Fathers don’t exasperate your kids (6:4). Masters don’t abuse your slaves (6:9).

Everyone in the system has a role and the gospel invests each one with great dignity.

Using our position to recognise the dignity and celebrate the dignity of others as those for whom Christ has died.

Jigsaw – all the bits are important. Missing one piece is an issue, no matter where it appears in the overall picture.

Through the gospel you have been given dignity. Saved through the sacrifice of God the Son. Whether you are married or not. Whether you are a parent or not. Whatever your position in society. In the gospel you have dignity.

Loved, chosen, cherished in Christ Jesus.

The call on us is to exercise that dignity in honour of the Risen Lord Jesus by expressing the expansive sufficiency of the gospel.

Gospel Hope … The Christian household lives out the story of the eternal good news of the gospel – our true hope.

The married relationship lived in a Christ honouring way expresses the Gospel Hope on offer to all people. Because living under God’s authority brings hope.

Paul speaking into a situation much different from ours. In that society the wife was the property of the husband. In that society at that time there was no question of submitting to her husband.

But Paul says to the Christian wife submit not to society’s demands but to God’s way. Read v22-24. Submit to your own husband out of trust for God and to honour King Jesus.

Doesn’t actually say what submitting looks like in that day. Today it does not mean … Downtrodden Domestic Violence No say; or even the husband having last say… etc.

Certainly challenges each couple to lean into what the exercise of authority looks like in their relationship. The absence of specifics makes the principles timeless.

Does mean respect for the leadership role of the husband Read v33. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Gospel leadership in the home – what does that actually look like?

And as we see in v33 husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Not a romantic love in mind here – although it is not excluded.

Love as in a choice and commitment to serve with a self-sacrificing leadership. Read v25-30.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Leading for the good of another, the flourishing of another, the godliness of another. Responsibility for the emotional, physical, and spiritual health of those in your care.

Here is a way of loving and living which is completely different from the surrounding culture. In fact, it’s at odds with their community. And that would be largely true of today.

In that time Christians were accused of wrecking society with their subversive behaviour and teaching.

When I started in ministry the view of marriage was – just a piece of paper. Church making a big deal about nothing. Today it’s viewed as a human right even open to same sex couples. Church denying people equality and love!!!

The nature of the marriage relationship is not determined by culture. Headship is not determined by the culture. Read v31-32

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

One man, one woman, to the exclusion of all others for life.

Marriage communicates gospel hope – God’s eternal plan of salvation.

The gospel message – anyone calling on the name of the Lord, submitting to his authority, will be saved.

And the authority that reflects Jesus’ own authority is loving, self-giving authority for the good of those under that authority.

That’s also how I understand Paul’s imperative to children. Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Use to have that on the fridge… Honour your parents, your God-given guardians who will v4 bring you up in instruction in the Lord that you may have life – eternal life. (Image bearers of God).

Christian family declares Gospel hope.

The authority of a steadfast, loving God is very different from the fickle human authority, ever changing and very prejudice, always me centred.

Our hope is in his steadfast, eternal rule. A rule which places our best interests at its core. That is what gospel-centred marriages and families attest to. Will our attitude to marriage reflect that hope?

Gospel Freedom … Paul has often been criticised for not seeking to abolish slavery. And he does not speak against slavery here.

If Paul doesn’t take this opportunity to speak against slavery, how can we say there is freedom in Paul’s gospel message? Read 6:5-8.

5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

The gospel speaks into every life and offers an eternal freedom whatever your circumstance and whatever your culture, whatever abuses your society is into. The sufficiency of the gospel is good news for everyone. How terrible if it were only good news for the powerful.

Paul’s message is certainly one of freedom in the gospel.

Remember that Paul himself is writing from prison. A prisoner for the Lord (4:1). His concern is not for his own release but for the spread of the gospel, because that is where eternal freedom is found.

These prison chains don’t constrain me, the gospel constrains me.

It’s estimated that 30-50% of the population were slaves. Some prisoners of war or convicted criminals, others were bond-slaves; sell yourself into slavery so that you could eat.

Your life was certainly lived at the whim of your master. You had no station in society. No legal rights.

Throughout history Christians have rightly been and remain at the heart of movements seeking to free slaves – (William Wilberforce).

For the record Paul makes a very passionate plea for the slave Onesimus in his letter to the slave owner Philemon.

But the point is that not even slavery can constrain your freedom in the gospel. And no matter what your situation you are free to serve the Risen Lord Jesus. 6:5-7. Even as a slave – serve Jesus by being a diligent slave.

You have the freedom to do this because your true life is hidden with Christ, eternal life. Read v8 True life and reward are coming.

Given by the one who gave even his life for our salvation. This life in relation to glory has been described as a bad night in a crumby hotel.

Whatever your station or situation in this life the gospel means that you are free to serve Jesus in whatever place you find yourself and look forward to the eternal reward. That is freedom.

Conclusion.

Marriage and weddings are on our radar at the moment. At the Art and Science of Marriage course this weekend 24 couples are being equipped to relate together better. Paul here gives us the reason why that is so important.

We are preparing for our son’s wedding. Fun, exciting, surprising that the baby we brought home yesterday is now getting married!! We are stoked that they want it to be a celebration of the gospel.

Paul here teaches us how the sufficiency of the gospel for all is reflected in household relationships and the call on us to live gospel-shaped lives.