A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 4

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 favor 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. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

Here is a fascinating application of God’s perspective on work.  Fascinating because it is addressed to someone who has no choice in the work he or she does because he or she is owned by another human being.  Nevertheless, there is an understanding that the slave can do legitimate work for this master and so fulfill the Cultural Mandate.  We may suppose that if the master were asking the slave to do something contrary to the will of God that this would not be fulfilling the Cultural Mandate, which requires that we work under God’s authority to better the world.

But assuming that the master has the slave doing legitimate work, the slave is to do so with sincerity of heart, being motivated out of love for God and for one’s fellow man in accord with the Great Commandments.  He or she is not to do it begrudgingly, simply to avert the master’s anger, but is to do it as serving the Master, the Lord God, who is the ultimate rewarder of good work.

Though it is not clearly stated in this passage, we may assume from what Paul says elsewhere (Titus 2:9,10) that he is also concerned that the way a slave works in subjection to his or her master is a reflection of the gospel and its transformative power.  The Great Commission is always a factor in how and why we work.


Ephesians 5:31-33 — Conversations with God

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Lord Jesus, everything You have created seems to have a paradigm in heaven.  And here You are saying through the apostle Paul that our marriages are analogous to Your marriage to the church.  Our marriages are meant to picture Your relationship to us.  Just as we have become one flesh through marriage, you have become one with Your church.  There is this unbreakable bond you have with us that You will never abandon.

We are to submit to You as our “husband” and follow Your direction.  And You love us enough to die for us and have actually done that.  So we should mimic You in our marriages and demonstrate to the world what it means to be in relationship with You.  Why would You tie Your image to our weak attempts at modeling our relationships after You?  You know how much we have failed and are going to fail.  Does this not frustrate You endlessly?

Somehow You value this connection and are unwilling to back off from calling us to imitate You.  You are always modeling what it means for us to love one another and be committed to each other and how order should be kept in a chaotic world.  You’re our marriage manual, our marriage Counselor and Mentor by example.  Your interaction with Your church is our couple therapy.

Make my marriage a credit to Your character.

Ephesians 5:22-24 — Conversations with God

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Lord Jesus, I’m a husband and so are You.  My wife is to be subject to me as we, the church, are to You.  I dare say my wife has done a way better job of being subject to me than the church has to You.  That is as much a praise of my wonderful wife as it is an indictment of me as a part of Your church.  You have earned the right to have a submissive “wife” by becoming our Savior.  Forgive us for not being more submissive and obedient.

I don’t know, Lord, that I have earned my wife’s submission, but she has freely given it and trusted me beyond my trustworthiness.  Perhaps that trust has helped me become more trustworthy.  I want to be as wise and loving a leader of her as You are of us.

Being a follower of someone else, whose leadership might result in financial failures, unhealthy responses to stress, and less than godly paths, is an exercise in trusting You, really.  You are the one who put people in authority in our lives.  You know how subject to failure all leaders are, especially husbands.  Help my wife by helping me be a more stalwart “head” to her, and in so doing help me be a better, more submissive “spouse” to You.

Ephesians 5:7-14 — Conversations with God

Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Lord, it is odd to think in Paul’s grammar of the Christian life.  He gives us an imperative (“Do not be partakers with them” in their disobedience) and says the reason rests in an indicative (“You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”).  Father, how is the one cause for the other?

I suppose, Lord, that if I were not in actuality “light” in You, I could do nothing else but darkness.  You have done something miraculous in me and the proof or fruit of it must be obeying Your imperatives and living a life of “goodness and righteousness and truth.”  I should be trying to learn what is pleasing to You.

So help me live what I am. Instead of participating in deeds of darkness, help me to expose them with the light You have made me and given me.  Use my life to show those in darkness a better way. Give me a passion for calling them out of darkness.  Use me to wake them up so that they might see the Son shine.

Ephesians 4:17-19 – Conversations with God

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

It seems, Lord, that the evidence of a darkened understanding and hardened heart most often comes out in sexual impurity.  I suppose this is because the sexual impulse craves fulfillment and we look for ways to justify acting on it even though we know it will wreak havoc in all of our relationships.  We greedily want more than we can handle and often hurt the ones we love because of our selfishness.

You were affirming with Paul’s words that this kind of lifestyle is off limits for us.  We cannot faithfully represent You if we are so caught up in ourselves.  We are thinking in a futile manner and living as if we were excluded from Your life if we remain given over to sensuality.

Our society screams sensuality at every corner and we have more opportunity to pique our lusts than we can count.  Teach us to make a covenant with our eyes (like Job did) and with our hearts not to go down this path but to turn to You when we feel we are being drawn into this vortex.  Make us more excited by real relationship with You and a wholesome outlet for our senses.

Ephesians 2:8,9 — Conversations with God

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

Father, these are some of the most amazing words in Scripture.  So clear, so exact, and yet I’m tempted to take them for granted.  They have been so quoted as to feel trite at times when in fact they are world changing.

To acknowledge that my rescue from death comes not by works of obedience I have done, but by trusting in Jesus’ provision of sacrifice, is at once humbling and worldview changing.  Every major and minor religion trades in the coin of good works as the means to salvation, often not even differing that much on what those works are.  But Christianity is uniquely different, trading in the altogether different currency of faith and grace.

We can’t boast about why we should merit Your salvation.  We can’t stand before You or anyone else and list our credentials for getting into heaven or the kingdom.  We must receive the rescue as a gift, totally unmerited except for the merit of Jesus earned on our behalf.

Thank You for Your indescribable gift!

But once we have given up earning our own way and have received this gift of all gifts, we have every confidence that You have rescued us from our terrible plight because of Your imcomparable love for us.  You have made a way where there was not way.  I’ll boast in You rather than myself.

Ephesians 2:4-7 — Conversations with God

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Father, this doesn’t explain why You have such great love for me that You would show me mercy, indeed, rich mercy, but I am so grateful.  Making me alive in Christ (spiritually resurrected to new life in connection with His resurrection) and raising me and seating me in the heavenlies in Christ (in connection with His ascension and magesterial enthronement) has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me.  Oh, that You would do this for everyone!

It is incredible to think that not only did You rescue me from Your own well-deserved wrath but You are looking forward to showering me with Your riches because You have such grace and kindness toward me.  I do not deserve it, Father, but I sure want it.  I want to bask in Your love like the warm sun and receive Your healing kindness.  There is no one I’d rather be with than You.  I look forward to ages upon ages of relationship with You.