Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. In two weeks time it will be Christmas day, so I hope you are well on the way with preparations. Personally I need to buy some more sellotape!
Today our Bible reading is Ephesians 6 vs1-9, and we are going to focus on verse 3 which says: “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
This verse is taken from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy – Chapter 5 vs16. In actual fact this phrase is used 9 times in Deuteronomy, and 3 times in Jeremiah, before it is quoted here by Paul.
As Paul explains, the sentence “so it may go well with you” follows a time when God has given a commandment to his people. In the case of today’s passage this is in the Ten Commandments, where children are told to honour their father and mother.
However, every time the words “so it may go well with you” are used, it is after the Jewish people have been instructed to keep God’s decrees or commands, where they have been reminded to do what is right in the sight of the Lord, or where they have been told to remove things that are ungodly from amongst them.
Throughout the Old Testament therefore we see that the laws of God go hand in hand with the promises of God……but the law comes first.
But now we need to understand why Paul chooses to quote these words to the people of Ephesus, so let’s look back and remind ourselves of the context……..
Four weeks ago Alan started our journey through this book by saying that the foundation of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was to remind them, and us, that we are a chosen people and have been adopted into God’s family. We have been redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross.
Liam then highlighted the fact that the followers of Jesus in Ephesus were largely Gentiles, not Jews, and therefore there was an even greater significance to this group of people being brought into God’s family, as previously they had been separated, excluded and considered foreigners. But now Jews and Gentiles were being built together to create a family or a community where God would choose to make his home.
And then last week Tom took us through Chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5, where we begin to learn how to live well alongside this new extended family that we find ourselves part of. We see in these chapters that it is our responsibility to keep the bond of peace, and to grow in maturity as the body of Christ, as well as to build positive, healthy relationships with those around us.
And now in Chapter 6 Paul dials down even further into what it means to live as those who are members of God’s family, as he addresses not only relationships within community, but how we conduct ourselves in our workplaces, in our own households, in our marriages and with our children.
Do we live as Christ would want us to up close and personal, or is our relationship with Jesus just a public persona that we put on for others to see on Sunday?
Do our children see more of our anger, than they see of our kindness and compassion?
At the Christmas party, will our colleagues and boss see and hear more of our drinking and coarse language, than they will hear our of thanksgiving and encouragement?
The security that we gain from the promise of adoption into God’s family comes with the call to live as disciples of Christ not only in the world, but in the four walls of our home and workplace.
And as we saw yesterday, this can be difficult. Our human nature struggles to put the needs of others before our own, and for some of us we just inherently want to question or fight against anything or anyone seeking to limit our personal freedom to do whatever we like. And some aspects of this call to live a Godly lifestyle are hard because it challenges us to live radically different lives, to stand out from the crowd, to go against the flow of the culture that surrounds us.
But by quoting these words from Deuteronomy, Paul is reminding people that when God calls us to live in a certain way, or to adopt a certain attitude or mindset, he is saying these things because he wants the best for us, he wants things to go well with you and I.
In the Old Testament, obedience to the law is what came first, in order for people to have a relationship with God, and receive all that he had promised them. But God saw again and again that people just could not do this.
And this is why God sent Jesus……..because he wanted things to go well for us.
Through the New Testament we learn that the promise of a relationship with God is given to us as a gift through Jesus. And what comes first is our faith in him.
Honouring our fathers and mothers, obeying our parents, treating our employers with respect, serving those whom we line manage, lead or employ; all of these are then things that the Holy Spirit helps us to do, as a response, as a thanksgiving, for everything that Jesus has done for us. We do these things not because we are working hard to obey the law, but because the Holy Spirit stirs this desire within us, and it flows from our grateful hearts.
Our vision for 2020 at STC Sheffield is ‘Join us for the Better Life’ – and this is what Paul is saying here, to the Ephesians, and to us. Jesus is our hope for a better life. Jesus is the hope for our marriages, our families, and our workplaces. Have faith in him, pursue purity and holiness in your own life and in all your relationships, and know God’s promise to be true “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Heavenly Father, help us today to honour you in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions at work and at home, that it may go well for us and we may enjoy a long life on the earth. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 6:1-9
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’– which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.